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Space Science

Spectacular New Views of Saturn's Polar Vortex 49

sighted writes "Today the robotic spacecraft Cassini returned some jaw-dropping images of the odd hexagon in the planet's north polar region. The hexagon has been seen before, but the change of season has more fully revealed the feature in visible light. Cassini also zoomed in on the churning vortex at the north pole itself. The south pole features a similar maelstrom."
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Spectacular New Views of Saturn's Polar Vortex

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  • I want stereoscopic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:43AM (#42114113)

    What an incredible image, I'd love to see it as a stereoscopic image to really capture the depth of the clouds. Shouldn't be too hard - at orbital speeds two images taken a few seconds apart should capture incredible depth while the storm is unlikely to have changed significantly.

  • weather (Score:5, Funny)

    by swell ( 195815 ) <> on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:48AM (#42114127)

    Yeah, it's been wild here too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think you fathom quite how gigantic this storm is: Hint: The thing could swallow the whole earth like a tornado swallows a cow, or your mom swallows a cow.

      • by swell ( 195815 )

        That may well be, but while the wind and rain were beating on the windows,
        I had to comfort my girlfriend all night. Poor thing.
        She does look perkier this morning tho.

        "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?"
        " ... full of sound and fury, signifying nothing ... "

  • There's also this [] report on some electron-generated thermal anomaly on Saturn's moon Tethys
  • Amazing pictures... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:28AM (#42114575)

    See research done by Ana Claudia Barbosa Aguiar and Peter Read at Oxford in 2010. They were able to recreate this phenomenon in the lab. It has to do with interaction the rotating atmosphere of Saturn with a jet stream near the pole. By adjusting the speed of revolution of the jet stream they were able to create pretty much any desired shape.

  • ....when human beings, if ever, will get to see such things directly with their own eyes. How far away are such times ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That will vary depending on if the ones who are to go see it are picky about making it back.

      • This is a pretty salient comment, although it's certainly possible to go to Saturn and back, the technical hurdles are pretty astounding and would require some substantial developments in a number of areas.

        However, if there's no intention to make the return trip, humans could go as far as Saturn with existing technology.

        • I'm pretty sure we can go to Saturn and back with existing technology - it's just a matter of being willing to pay for it.

          It's not like it's impossible for us to park a few million or billion ton of rocket fuel in orbit (or however much is needed for a round trip) - it's just extremely expensive to do so.

          Same with building a properly shielded capsule for the crew to be aboard.

          • by Fr33z0r ( 621949 )
            You'd lose too much bone density on a round-trip to Saturn, you could make it there, sure, but you wouldn't be coming home.
            • Agreed, that does seem like it may take 3 or 4 years to get there.... Not sure anyone has ever spent that long in space.... It seems maybe with some artificial gravity (spinning disc?) it could be done, but then you have the problem of building a pretty massive ship that's still micrometeor and radiation shielded. It would probably involved something about 20x more complicated than the ISS and that's still not counting all the fuel. Rocket fuel is a diminishing returns problem, where carrying thousands

    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      You mean out a spacecraft window? Even if we go there and an astronaut decides to go for a spacewalk, how different is that going to feel from seeing it on your monitor, really? If we told you we were sending you to Saturn and then stuffed you into an underground complex and simulated the ride, do you think you'd be able to tell the difference? Well I mean other than the gravity thing... There's a lot of stuff between you and space in a spacecraft. Over the course of a few months, I suspect the trip would g
      • If we told you we were sending you to Saturn and then stuffed you into an underground complex and simulated the ride, do you think you'd be able to tell the difference?

        I think it's less about the physical journey from Earth to Saturn, and more about the.. life journey, for lack of a better phrase, of humanity as a species that would enable us to go there in the first place.

  • Gorgeous! Now... someone said something about a planet or some such? All I could see was the redhead.

  • A hexagon!? Clearly that has to be the work of intelligent beings. There must be some sort of alien presence on Saturn. The clouds probably hide the base they have used to observe for centuries. I hope the History channel's Ancient Aliens puts some of their first class investigative journalists and deductive scientists on this right away.
    • A hexagon!? Clearly that has to be the work of intelligent beings.

      Of course, what did you think? Even aliens need a Department of Defense.

    • The hexagon was placed there by the Kuiper Anomaly (cf. Stephen Baxter, "Coalescent")

  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @10:48AM (#42116845)

    There is a large Hex nut holding the poles together - and you call yourselves scientists?

  • I strung together 7 raw images from cassini's website into a simple animtation: []
  • And this is easily my favourite vortex.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.