Saturn’s Hexagon May Be Solar System’s Coolest Mystery By Alexis Madrigal - December 9, 2009 | Categories: Space
“The longevity of the hexagon makes this something special, given that weather on Earth lasts on the order of weeks,” said Kunio Sayanagi, a Cassini project researcher at the California Institute of Technology, in a NASA release. “It’s a mystery on par with the strange weather conditions that give rise to the long-lived Great Red Spot of Jupiter.”
The hexagon circles Saturn at 77 degrees north and is wider than two Earths. Nearly everything about the weather pattern is baffling. First, it’s unclear what causes the hexagon. Second, it’s bizarre that the jet stream would make such sharp turns. Earth’s atmospheric movements rarely display such geometric rigor.
Image of the Day: Stunning New Views of Saturn's Titan
A wide-angle view in today’s package captures Titan passing in front of Saturn, as well as the planet’s changing colors. Upon Cassini’s arrival at Saturn eight years ago, Saturn’s northern winter hemisphere was an azure blue. Now that winter is encroaching on the planet’s southern hemisphere and summer on the north, the color scheme is reversing: blue is tinting the southern atmosphere and is fading from the north.
Cassini captured this image from below Saturn's ring plane at a distance of 1,393,386 miles (2,242,437 kilometers). It shows not only the gas giant's shadow but also the wispy nature of the rings, which, although complex, extensive and highly reflective (the light seen on Saturn above is reflected light from the rings!) they are still very thin—less than a mile (about 1 km) on average and in some places as little as thirty feet (10 meters) thick.
Views like the one above are once again possible because of Cassini's new orbit, which takes it high above and below the ring plane, providing a new perspective for studying Saturn and its moons. Ultimately by next April the spacecraft will be orbiting Saturn at an inclination of about 62 degrees—that'd be like an orbit around Earth that goes from Alaska to the northernmost tip of Antarctica.
(CNN) -- NASA says the Cassini spacecraft recorded the aftermath of a massive storm on Saturn that let out an "unprecedented belch of energy."
Not only was the size of the storm unusual, but what the storm was made of left scientists puzzled.
The source of the cosmic burp, which rapidly changed the atmosphere's temperature, was ethylene gas, an odorless, colorless gas that has rarely been observed on Saturn, NASA said.
"This temperature spike is so extreme it's almost unbelievable," said Brigette Hesman, the study's lead author who works at Goddard. "To get a temperature change of the same scale on Earth, you'd be going from the depths of winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the height of summer in the Mojave Desert," Hesman said in a statement released by NASA.
Scientists still haven't figured out from where the ethylene gas came.
Last June, astronomers urged sky watchers to observe the transit of Venus. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, they said. The black disk of the second planet wouldn't crawl across the face of the sun again for more than 100 years.
In fact, it's happening again this week--not on Earth, but Saturn.
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Sept 17, 2013 8:24:45 GMT -8
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Nov 17, 2013 13:35:49 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:04:49 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:28:11 GMT -8