Saturn's Strange Hexagon

by Quinton on March 26th, 2011
Saturn's Strange Hexagon

This nighttime view of Saturn's north pole by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer onboard NASA's Cassini orbiter clearly shows a bizarre six-sided hexagon feature encircling the entire north pole. This is one of the first clear images taken of the north polar region ever acquired from a unique polar perspective.

In this image, the red color indicates the amount of 5-micron wavelength radiation, or heat, generated in the warm interior of Saturn that escapes the planet. Clouds near 3-bar (about 100 kilometers or 62 miles deeper than seen in visible wavelengths) block the light, revealing them in silhouette against the background thermal glow of Saturn. The bluish color shows sunlight striking the far limb (edge) of the planet, showing that the entire north pole is under the nighttime conditions characteristic of polar winter, as on Earth.

This image is the first to capture the entire feature and north polar region in one shot, and is also the first polar view using Saturn's thermal glow at 5 microns (seven times the wavelength visible to the human eye) as the light source. This allows the pole to be revealed during the persistent nighttime conditions under way during winter. The hexagon feature was originally discovered by NASA's Voyager spacecraft in 1980, but those historic images and subsequent ground-based telescope images suffered from poor viewing perspectives, which placed the feature and the north pole at the extreme northern limb (edge) in those images.

In the new infrared images, the strong brightness of the hexagon feature indicates that it is primarily a clearing in the clouds, which extends deep into the atmosphere, at least some 75 kilometers (47 miles) underneath the typical upper hazes and clouds seen in the daytime imagery by Voyager. Thick clouds border both sides of the narrow feature, as indicated by the adjacent dark lanes paralleling the bright hexagon. This and other images acquired over a 12-day period between Oct. 30 and Nov. 11, 2006, show that the feature is nearly stationary, and likely is an unusually strong pole-encircling planetary wave that extends deep into the atmosphere.

This image was acquired with the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer on Oct. 30, 2006, from an average distance of 1.3 million kilometers (807,782 miles).

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, where this image was produced.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team homepage is at http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu .

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

 Filed under: Space

4 Comments

heather: Excellent Find

How on earth did you think to discover this? Its wonderful! Does anyone have an opinion on what this means??

highplainssister: NASA

It is I, it is me, I read you said excellent find, and I thought you found a great vintage Barbie doll or something. Have we lost something out into space another home or anything like that? It is costing tax payers a plenty to get pictures and rocks and things like that so far away and I am not a rocket scientist, like edisonik said lets feed the hungry people on this earth, The picture is great , I am not saying that is not, and I surely hope mankind will benefit from it, but some people will be in the grave from lack of food, those humans I am sure don't give a poot about that picture.
Can we get our priorities back the way it should be , If you want to go to other planets the best way to get there is astral travel, much quicker, much less costly, If I was president, please vote for me, I'd send NASA to hell where the Illuminati came from and so I hear is the managers of NASA.

Annunaki77: Colonization for the Many not the Few!

If Planetary Colonization is to occur Humanity must set aside their differences because Humanity is growing and we will need more Resources, We must think like GODS for we are GODS, lets start becoming GODS, let no Human or Creatures stand in our way for we are Awsome and we will Prevail, Victory for Humanity and Persistence till Victory is Achieved.

Humanity awaken the GOD within.

heather: Seriously, highplainsister are you a paid propagandist??

I really want to know. I will be the one to ask the obvious because my patience are wearing thin reading postings that display all the ability and education of an eighth grader. (Are you an underage internet user? Isn't there an age restriction on this site?)

In all seriousness, I know the REGIME pays people to infiltrate certain sites and create postings such as the ones you have been providing. Judging from your open-ended questions and apparent lack of concern for any real answers I feel that is your motivation. I certainly hope that is the case, because if you are really just that bored- then WHEW... I feel really sorry for you.

The fact is the last laugh is going to be on you.

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