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NASA Space

Cassini Gets Amazing Views of Saturn's Hexagon 50

SternisheFan sends this excerpt from a JPL news release: "NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn's north pole. This is the first hexagon movie of its kind (GIF), using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude. Spanning about 20,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200-mile-per-hour winds (about 322 kilometers per hour) with a massive, rotating storm at the center. There is no weather feature exactly, consistently like this anywhere else in the solar system. 'The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable,' said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 'A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades — and who knows — maybe centuries.'"
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Cassini Gets Amazing Views of Saturn's Hexagon

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  • say the .gif is mesmerizing, and I have no clue what I'm looking at.

    If you later said, "Lol, that's a false color prostate exam camera," I wouldn't be shocked.

  • Be Proud USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by occasional_dabbler ( 1735162 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:53PM (#45621745)
    You really did some cool shit. Please get back to that agenda
  • Why a Hexagon? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:54PM (#45621753)

    Why isn't it a spiral; why do the winds run roughly straight, then make a sharp turn and then run roughly straight again? I am not an astro-physicist, hell I don't even know if that's the correct term. But if someone out there knows why the peculiar shape I'd be most intrigued to find out.

  • The GIF begs the question, why, i.e., what causes the hexagonal pattern, but there's nothing in TFA that explains it. Can any of you astronomer types shed light on this???
    • Well, guess this explains it: []
    • It does not "beg" any questions.


      • Technically you are correct as the phrase "beg the question" means avoid the question using circular logic.

        Still, the phrase "begs the question" sounds like to a teenager that the scenario is just asking for a question to pop up.

        In 50 years, your classical definition of "to beg a question" will be notated as "obsolete" --- because people in the media screw up the usage all the time. And it is annoying to witness ...

        But long term --- the phrase will eventually always mean what it sounds like it is suppo
        • Neither use means "avoiding the question".

          The common use of "...which begs the question" means "...which prompts me to ask". While the variant of the circular reasoning fallacy called "Begging the Question" is used to mean "assuming or forcing the answer in the wording of the question".

          [Since the "Begging" in the latter is a rare/archaic/obscure term for "assuming", it seems unreasonable to pour scorn on people who use the common English meanings of "begs" and "the question".]

      • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

        Oh really?

        Collins English Dictionary []
        beg the question
        a. to evade the issue
        b. to assume the thing under examination as proved
        c. to suggest that a question needs to be asked the firm's success begs the question: why aren't more companies doing the same?

        Webster's College Dictionary []
        1. beg the question,
        a. to assume the truth of the very point raised in a question.
        b. to evade the issue.
        c. to raise the question; inspire one to ask.

        Some random luddite wh

  • What is going on (Score:5, Informative)

    by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:57PM (#45621767) Homepage
    One of the strangest things about the hexagon is that other gas giants don't see to have anything like it. And it rotates with the same period as Saturn's natural radio emissions, which is not the period of rotation of Saturn itself. See []. Also, relevant SMBC: [].
    • God's just been playing SuperHexagon [] since he created Saturn. He hasn't beaten it yet.
    • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:45PM (#45622161)
      Natural wonder at it's finest, that's what. We should consider ourselves lucky it's in our own backyard. Perhaps one day people will travel to Saturn just to vacation in orbit and take in the wonder of this phenomenon in similar fashion to visiting Earthly wonders such as Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. If the phenomenon lasts long enough, and I live long enough, I would like to go. Can you imagine staring down at thing in all of it's immensity, from orbit? I can't.
    • It would be stranger if they did have something like it, considering how different they are.

      The short version of BattleApple's post above is "because fluid dynamics". Other gas giants do not have the same wind pattern gradients.

      The opposite of strange - rather expected, actually.

  • by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:10PM (#45621887) Journal
    The Hexagon of Saturn is nothing compared with the Delta of Venus
    I want some pics of that.
  • Am I only one who think that Saturn has too perfect circle shape in this image.
    Also I think that Saturn hexagon actually consists of 7 smaller hurricanes.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's not a bad idea, but the real solution is circular harmonics. Basically, the atmospheric conditions inside the hexagon and outside it are pretty different. The boundary vibrates like a circular wave. Since it is a wave, it only vibrates at fixed frequencies.

      If you look closely at the picture, you'll see that there is a "dip" between every two "peaks" (which you represent as an O).

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        That's not a bad idea, but the real solution is circular harmonics.

        Does it use circular logic?

  • Not to be too negative, but the "movie" consists of 8 frames. Don't bust out the popcorn just yet. Nevertheless, it's an interesting show.
    • I predict that Saturn has clear skies under the clouds. The .gif image of 8 frames gives some support for my expectation. The rocky core is seen in the .gif and that core has clear gas all the way to the polar hole in the cloud tops. Venus has clear skies under thick clouds. Mars has clear skies under clouds. Earth has clear air under clouds. Saturn is expected also to conform to that, so I predict the cloud tops of Saturn are over a thick layer of transparent atmosphere over a rocky core that is seen in th
      • by Teun ( 17872 )
        A rocky core, yeah right :) []

        Saturn has the lowest density of all the planets in the Solar System. The actual number is 0.687 grams per cubic centimeter. This is actually less dense than water; if you had a large enough pool of water, Saturn would float.
        Just for comparison, Jupiter has an average density of 1.33 grams per cubic centimeter. So it wouldn’t float on water. And Earth, the densest planet in the Solar System, measures 5.51 grams/cubic centimeter.

  • ...that's an A-T field!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the head of a bolt. Do you suppose Saturn is metric or standard?

    In all seriousness, I think it's both weird yet fascinating that the clouds have formed such a (nearly) perfect shape. It almost looks like the boundary wanted to develop into a sort of "sine wave" but other influences flattened portions of it out.

  • The thought of a planetary-scale standing wave just boggles my mind.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp