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Saturnís Hexagon Will be the Star of the Cassini Finale
universetoday.com ^ | 10 May , 2017 | Matt Williams

Posted on 05/10/2017 6:42:15 PM PDT by BenLurkin

he Cassini spacecraft is nearing the end of its lifespan. This September, after spending the past twenty years in space – twelve and a half of which were dedicated to studying Saturn and its system of moons – the probe will be crash into Saturn’s atmosphere. But between now and then, the probe will be making its “Grand Finale” – the final phase of its mission where it will dive between the planet and its rings 22 times.

In addition to exploring this region of Saturn (something no other mission has done), the probe will also be using this opportunity to study Saturn’s hexagonal polar jet stream in greater detail. This persistent storm, which rages around Saturn’s northern polar region, has been a subject of interest for decades. And now that it enjoys full sunlight, Cassini will be able to directly image it with every pass it makes over Saturn’s north pole.

This persistent storm was first noticed in images sent back by the Voyager 1 and 2 missions, which flew by Saturn in 1980 and 1981, respectively. As storms go, it is extremely massive, with each side measuring about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) in length – longer than the diameter of the Earth. It also rotates with a period of 10 hours 39 minutes and 24 seconds, which is assumed to be equal to the rotation of Saturn’s interior.

When the Cassini spacecraft arrived around Saturn in 2004 to conduct the first part of its mission, this region was in shadow. This was due to the fact that the northern hemisphere was still coming out of winter, and was hence tilted away from the Sun. However, since Saturn began its summer solstice in May of 2017, the northern polar region is now fully illuminated – at least Saturn’s standards.

(Excerpt) Read more at universetoday.com ...


TOPICS: Astronomy
KEYWORDS: astronomy; cassini; hexagon; saturn; storm

1 posted on 05/10/2017 6:42:15 PM PDT by BenLurkin
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To: BenLurkin

Wow! That is 5,000 mph winds towards the edge!


2 posted on 05/10/2017 6:52:48 PM PDT by 17th Miss Regt
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