Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Mysteries Swirl Around Cyclones At Saturn's Poles 67

Posted by kdawson
from the call-the-wind-mariah dept.
Riding with Robots writes "New images of Saturn from the robotic spacecraft Cassini are shedding new light on monstrous storms that swirl at both poles of the ringed planet. 'These are truly massive cyclones, hundreds of times stronger than the most giant hurricanes on Earth,' said one mission scientist. Cumulus clouds twirl around the vortices, betraying the presence of giant thunderstorms lurking beneath. But the storms do not disturb the bizarre hexagonal cloud formation previously reported."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Mysteries Swirl Around Cyclones At Saturn's Poles

Comments Filter:
  • Solved (Score:3, Funny)

    by ndnspongebob (942859) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:21PM (#25364257)
    It's a McFlurry!!
  • by RuBLed (995686) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:26PM (#25364279)
    Puny humans trying to copy their crop circles. Hah!
  • Original Story (Score:5, Informative)

    by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:41PM (#25364381) Homepage
  • How far down ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:44PM (#25364397)

    I would be curious to know how far down these things go. They look like Taylor columns to me, and in principle could go all the way to the other side, assuming there isn't a rocky core down there somewhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What's a Taylor Column? Couldn't find anything on Wikipedia. A pointer to a source would help.

      Thanks

      • Re:How far down ? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jesus_666 (702802) on Tuesday October 14, 2008 @04:01AM (#25365983)
        Even though there is no Wikipedia article, Wikimedia Commons appears to have an annotated illustration:

        http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Taylor_column_rising_ball.png [wikimedia.org]
      • Re:How far down ? (Score:5, Informative)

        by mbone (558574) on Tuesday October 14, 2008 @04:51AM (#25366187)

        Rotating fluids that are perturbed tend to form columns parallel to the axis of rotation called Taylor columns [mit.edu], after G.I. Taylor [harvard.edu]. On the Earth, these are sometimes seen over seamounts [washington.edu] in the oceans, and back when people assumed that Jupiter had a surface, it was hypothesized that the Great Red Spot was a taylor column over an obstruction on the surface below. This now seems highly unlikely, as a solid surface seems highly unlikely. Some more theory is here [google.com].

        More recently, it has been hypothesized that the belts of the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn (which are organized in pairs at opposite latitudes) may be Taylor columns [ucsd.edu] (i.e., that they may extend part or all the way through the planet as cylinders, keeping the same distance from the rotation axis). A Taylor column at the pole could in principle go all the way through the planet, if there was nothing below it, or could mark the size of a rocky core, thousands of kilometers down. Thus my original question.

        This [emsb.qc.ca] explains the idea pretty well :

        The proposed atmospheric cylinders were first demonstrated in a series of laboratory experiments 25 years ago to chart atmospheric flow in a wholly gaseous planet. Friederich Busse, University of Bayreuth, Germany, and John Hart, University of Colorado, Boulder, used liquid-filled spheres with high rotation speeds and imposed interior-exterior temperature differences. The experiments showed that the convective and most other disturbances in these fast-rotating spheres of fluid almost always produced cylindrical vortices parallel to the test vessel's spin axis, called Taylor columns.

  • Eigen vibration galore baby! Deeep base.... VERY VERY deeep base. Cool.... Saturn is having a house party!

  • Maybe for aliens monoliths should have 6 sides and not built from solid materials. Maybe in a future we could send a probe and hear "Oh my god, is full of water drops!"
  • Damn! (Score:4, Informative)

    by PPH (736903) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:12PM (#25364555)
    We're going to have to rethink our our plans for mobile home parks on Saturn.
  • These are truly massive cyclones, hundreds of times stronger than the most giant hurricanes on Earth

    So how many Katrinas is that?
    Or perhaps more appropriately, how many Great Red Spots [wikipedia.org] is that?

    Also, when it comes to storms, does size=strength?

    • by zorog (856212)
      from the TFA:

      Time-lapse movies of the clouds circling the north pole show the whirlpool-like cyclone there is rotating at 530 kilometers per hour (325 miles per hour), more than twice as fast as the highest winds measured in cyclonic features on Earth. This cyclone is surrounded by an odd, honeycombed-shaped hexagon, which itself does not seem to move while the clouds within it whip around at high speeds, also greater than 500 kilometers per hour (300 miles per hour). Oddly, neither the fast-moving clouds inside the hexagon nor this new cyclone seem to disrupt the six-sided hexagon.

      • from the TFA:

        Time-lapse movies of the clouds circling the north pole show the whirlpool-like cyclone there is rotating at 530 kilometers per hour (325 miles per hour), more than twice as fast as the highest winds measured in cyclonic features on Earth. This cyclone is surrounded by an odd, honeycombed-shaped hexagon, which itself does not seem to move while the clouds within it whip around at high speeds, also greater than 500 kilometers per hour (300 miles per hour). Oddly, neither the fast-moving clouds inside the hexagon nor this new cyclone seem to disrupt the six-sided hexagon.

        To distinguish it from hexagons which aren't six-sided?

  • Well I am volunteering at DPS 2008 at Cornell University this weekend and it certainly has been awesome. I am not aware of a discussion of this topic (sounds like this is something new anyway). I know that Neptune's dark spots do have methane clouds that form around it because of condensation from air moving upwards rapidly. I wonder if these cyclones have anything to do with the hex nut at the north pole of saturn.
  • Maybe they'd better check those dark spots for the presence of objects with the precise proportions of 1:4:9
    • Airfare to Saturn is a little pricey these days, and if you think travel restrictions in the US are bad, just try and leave Saturn once you've arrived there...

  • have landed on Saturn.
  • so I cynically give this article an honorary (-1) for over-sensationalized adjectives. "Monstrous", "massive", "hundreds of times stronger than storms on earth" - (I say in good humor) - isn't Saturn A SUPER-HUGE GAS GIANT OVER 763 TIMES THE VOLUME OF EARTH? So, yes, IT HAS BIG WEATHER. I certainly DO appreciate the exploration & research, it's just that I don't think anyone's impressed with the "monstrous storms" characterization anymore; maybe the Science Channel has desensitized us to scale superla
    • by Rastl (955935)

      My take on this is to give the common person some kind of reference that they can understand. If they just gave estimated wind speeds there's nothing there that normal daytime TV watching mouthbreathers can use to relate to what they know. Taking numbers out of thin air - if Hurricane Jerry Springer was 150 miles per hour then they can say that the Saturn Storms are 10 times more powerful. That gives a understandable frame of reference.

      We all do it when we're talking to people outside of our field. With

      • >>We all do it when we're talking to people outside of our field.

        Okay, unfortunately for me, your statement is exactly right with respect to the "hundreds of times bigger" phrase.

        BUT... sprinkling "massive," "monstrous," "mammoth" throughout doesn't provide any useful context to a person that doesn't know that Saturn is HUGE (regardless of that person's respiratory orifice of choice).

        It's like telling one's grandma "my laptop has a monstrous hard drive and massive amounts of RAM"

        I move that all planet

        • by Rastl (955935)

          This grumpy rant is far too fun to let die. Elucidated and gramatically correct discourse? Not on your life!

          I fully agree with the superlatives being done to the point of losing all meaning and I should have said that in my original response. 'Massive' has no meaning without an explanation. 'Massive in comparison to the surface area, covering fully 20%' would be far more in line with actually defining what they mean by using the word massive.

          I long for the days when they taught actual science in schools

          • 'Massive in comparison to the surface area, covering fully 20%'

            exactly - is that too much to ask? Enjoy your virtual margarita, sir or madam, you have earned it.

  • As someone already said in the original thread, my hunch would be Benard convection cells as well (same as you can see in boiling water even) maybe also look on '2:1 frequency-locking' and hexagonal patterns observed in standing waves.
  • ... it is a logo. Saturn runs Debian GNU/Linux.
  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Tuesday October 14, 2008 @12:18PM (#25370387) Homepage

    The hexagonal clouds are no mystery. You see, Saturn is far away. It was never meant to be looked at up close. The Designers just didn't bother to waste a lot of polygons on it to approximate a sphere. It's just a low-poly model with some texturing tricks to hide the edges.

    If we want to see it in higher resolution we have to get our spacecraft new graphics cards, that's all.

  • Why haven't we shot a probe through Saturn or Jupiter? You know, to see if it will come out the other side. Alternatively, it could catosrophically crash into whatever tiny solid formation is at the center, and think of all the fun that could be!
  • Simple really, it is nothing more than the Sol system's Well Gate... The Well World computer had to get us all here somehow right?

    Pity Chalker isn't around to see this...

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.

Working...