Saturn’s strange six-sided cloud pattern has gotten its day in the sun.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped the highest-resolution images to date of the planet’s hexagonal jet stream, which fuels swirling, cloudy storms at the planet’s north pole. Because of recent changes in Saturn’s tilt that allowed the sun to shine on the region, astronomers were able to get a better view and understanding of the roughly 30,000-kilometer-wide cloud structure.
Using colored filters, the Cassini team identified large particles, shown in pink, swirling in the planet’s lower atmosphere. Large particles at higher altitudes appear green, and tiny particles higher in the atmosphere appear blue. Those tiny particles define the sharp boundary of the hexagonal jet stream.
While the geometric shape of Saturn’s jet stream seems odd, its existence is not. Earth’s jet stream also forms cloud swirls around the North Pole. However, “Earth is basically really messy,” said Cassini team member Kunio Sayanagi of Hampton University in Virginia during a Google Hangout by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on December 4.
Air currents on Earth jumble up clouds by blowing over continents, mountains and oceans. But gaseous Saturn is free of solid ground, so the six-sided cloud structure persists and has probably been there for decades, possibly centuries.
|Star-shaped gravity waves|
|Bell pepper displays same hexagonal shape around its north pole|
as the hexagon that surrounds Saturn's North Pole.
|NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of Crab Nebula, 2013|
The distribution of stars in the along the pink zones looks like the same pattern of the straight-sided hexagon surrounding a pole, as is the green part of the pepper, and the hexagonal pattern around the North Pole of Saturn. Not only that, but you can see that its outside bubble-shaped clouds resembles the bulging walls of the bell pepper as well as the bubbles lying outside the hexagonal shape in the gravity wave in the upper picture.
I'm suggesting that the reason these patterns repeat far and wide is that they are basic toroidal flow dynamics. Their presence implies the torus pattern underlying their assemblages.