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Mysteries Swirl Around Cyclones At Saturn's Poles

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the call-the-wind-mariah dept.

Space 67

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."

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Beware! (0)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364211)

The Robots are preparing to attack!

I can't help it... (-1, Redundant)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364233)

...that's not a moon!

Re:I can't help it... (5, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364295)

If it were cyclones around Uranus, would it be a moon then?

Re:I can't help it... (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364661)

If it were cyclones around Uranus, would it be a moon then?

Get your head out of Uranus. You'll get "ring around the collar."

Or, like some constipated astronaut, Klingons ...

Besides, when did the Poles get to Saturn? We haven't even made it to Mars yet.

How about earth's natural disasters? (0, Troll)

ilovesymbian (1341639) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364239)

Instead of worrying about Saturn's cyclones, how about worrying about earth's cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis?

Lets reserve the funding for this within our own earth please. On one hand, people talk about making the earth "green" and on the other hand, they blow up useful money into researching how the universe was built, whether Mars has life on it, how cyclones and tsunamis occur on Saturn. Does the scientific community not have its priorities right and consistent?

How about earth's unusual shapes? (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364265)

"Instead of worrying about Saturn's cyclones, how about worrying about earth's cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis?"

Do they come with unusual cloud formations?

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (5, Insightful)

deft (253558) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364315)

you know, when we study these things that are hard, we gain a greater understanding of other things as well. space exploration has always trickled down information to humanity.

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364585)

Case in point: Tang.

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (3, Funny)

w0rd (412663) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364411)

Actually, yes, apparently they do [wintersteel.com]

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364533)

lets not forget this one [flickr.com]

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (1)

alxkit (941262) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365411)

in soviet russia, Pentagrams shape you

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25367243)

That's no pentagram, that's a Starfleet insignia [freewebs.com] .

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (2, Interesting)

w0rd (412663) | more than 5 years ago | (#25373915)

I wasn't intending to be funny, that was just the first link I found. Try this one [colostate.edu] for size. Slow down the framing and you'll find some definite geometric shapes occurring.

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (4, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364577)

What they meant to write was , don't you think this money would better be spent on celebrities, mega yachts, private jets, luxury cars, mansions, exotic foods, alcohol, jewellery, fashion, makeup, hookers, drugs, oh yeah of course music CDs, you know all that bright shiny ego inflating crap, they were just too shamed and embarrassed to do so. Damn, that you should spend all that money on furthering human knowledge and understanding what a waste and seriously considering some of those specimens of humanity it really is a waste, oh well, I suppose you just have to focus on the few of us who see value in all knowledge because, basically you don't know how you can apply what you don't understand until you learn about it.

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (5, Funny)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364821)

Do they come with unusual cloud formations?

The hexagonal clouds are not a mystery. They in fact prove that there are legislators somewhere else even dumber than the ones we choose for ourselves. Obviously the government of Saturn has declared the value of PI to be exactly 3 and the clouds are only obeying the law.

Sheesh.

Re:How about earth's unusual shapes? (1)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 5 years ago | (#25370795)

Does that mean that the Government of Saturn are religious fundies since the bible seems to indicate that Pi is 3? If so, can we send all the religious nutcases we have here on Earth over to Saturn? How can I contribute funds?

Re:How about earth's natural disasters? (2, Insightful)

siride (974284) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364307)

Don't you think this kind of research will help us better understand our own planet? After all, you don't get to understand how humans work by only studying humans. You study related -- and not so related -- animals and plants.

Re:How about earth's natural disasters? (1)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364367)

You mean the old compare and contrast thing?

Re:How about earth's natural disasters? (5, Funny)

sighted (851500) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364309)

You're so right. Instead of wasting money on space-based research all these years, we should have been investing in weather satellites, remote sensing capabilities, worldwide communication networks, faster computers, and...

Oh, wait...

How about feeding the poor? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364415)

Instead of worrying about Saturn's cyclones, how about worrying about earth's cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis?

Lets reserve the funding for this within our own earth please. On one hand, people talk about making the earth "green" and on the other hand, they blow up useful money into researching how the universe was built, whether Mars has life on it, how cyclones and tsunamis occur on Saturn. Does the scientific community not have its priorities right and consistent?

Instead of wasting time on Slashdot, how about selling your computer and donating that money (not to mention the time you'll save) to helping the world's hungry? There are people who go without food and you're squandering your time and money trolling the internet looking for things to complain about?

Re:How about feeding the poor? (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364543)

Bam! Even good ol' "Anon Coward" can get in with q quick left right combo on the dumb. I love /.

Re:How about feeding the poor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25371557)

Saturn is more interesting than poor people to be honest. I'd rather donate money to something interesting.

Re:How about earth's natural disasters? (5, Insightful)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364823)

Speaking as a physicist, physical insight is always increased when you look at a broader problem. Studying cyclones only on the Earth is like trying to understand gravity while limiting your observations to distances between the ground and the height of a tree. You can come up with a great linear gravitational potential function, but you will never understand the physical significance of gravity. Only when you look at the broader problem do you begin to understand how gravity actually works. From there you can make assumptions, develop the math, and use it as a stepping stone to jumpstart other ideas, like classical electrodynamics (which itself provided the stepping stone for the complete rewrite of gravitational theory).

The benefits of studying weather patterns and geology outside of the narrow range that we observe on the Earth could be enormous. By observing the bizarre, we might be able to gain some insight into the mundane. These cyclones are a perfect chance. We have a pretty good idea on how cyclones work on the Earth, but the cyclones on Saturn are a mystery. By unraveling how these cyclones work, it should be possible to make a much more robust theory on how all cyclones will work.

I knew someone would post this (1)

almitchell (1237520) | more than 5 years ago | (#25366893)

It never fails to amuse me when someone inevitably pops up and says that instead of furthering our knowledge of space, the universe, physics and astronomy, we should put that money into "earth" and not worry about what's sitting out there in the ether since it doesn't help them afford a gallon of gas right now. Think beyond your little sphere of "me, me, me". Exploration and research into the universe *always* comes back to benefit us here on Earth, in one form or another. The more we learn about what's around us, the more we know to apply it here.

Re:How about earth's natural disasters? (4, Funny)

Tim C (15259) | more than 5 years ago | (#25367061)

Ah yes, because every problem can be solved faster by throwing more people at it! Why, if only we could convince 9 women to team up, they could have a baby in just 1 month!

Re:How about earth's natural disasters? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25368303)

I find your ideas interesting and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:How about earth's natural disasters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25371199)

Well, actually you're right. 9 babies in 9 months averages out to one per month. Over a long enough period of time it all averages out.

Solved (3, Funny)

ndnspongebob (942859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364257)

It's a McFlurry!!

Something I couldn't care less about (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364267)

Thanks

Extraterrestrials upping up the ante... (4, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364279)

Puny humans trying to copy their crop circles. Hah!

Those aren't mysteries ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364319)

...swirling around the south pole of Uranus.

It's global warming (-1, Troll)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364353)

someone call al gore

but who? (-1, Troll)

jagdish (981925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365515)

No one knows his phone number. He has no friends.

How far down ? (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:How far down ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25365423)

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

Thanks

Re:How far down ? (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:How far down ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25367757)

I think that gas giants might be solid crystals, mostly, covered by stormy layers that hide the fact.

A smart troll. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25370877)

What?? You never heard of google?? [google.com]

Dontcha think that would be a more obvious place to start searching for information rather than Wikipedia.

Sheesh, the intarwebs iz full o' fuckin' morons.

That looks like "ringing" to me (2, Interesting)

McNihil (612243) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364431)

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

Re:That looks like "ringing" to me (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364547)

Yeah, looks, I got to say, this isn't the first time these have been seen. Sony has even managed to market (albeit smaller earth sized versions) of the same thing:

Saturn Rings for your car [lightav.com]

Re:That looks like "ringing" to me (2, Funny)

ArchChancellor (1377281) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365345)

That's odd, those Sony "Hexagon" subs are pentagons!

Hexagonal cloud? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364535)

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! (3, Informative)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364555)

We're going to have to rethink our our plans for mobile home parks on Saturn.

Re:Damn! (1)

Mr_Whoopass (164559) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365895)

We're going to have to rethink our our plans for Saturn's at mobile home parks.

Fixed.

tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25364571)

"mysteryeffects"

Obligatory (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25364825)

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?

Re:Obligatory (1)

zorog (856212) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365503)

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.

Re:Obligatory (1)

Pictish Prince (988570) | more than 5 years ago | (#25372025)

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?

DPS 2008 (1)

sdemjanenko (1296903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365075)

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.

Here's an idea: (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365745)

Maybe they'd better check those dark spots for the presence of objects with the precise proportions of 1:4:9

Re:Here's an idea: (1)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 5 years ago | (#25365993)

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...

The bees .. (1)

SlashDev (627697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25366179)

have landed on Saturn.

Saturn = HUGE BALL OF WEATHER = Earth volume x763, (1)

lanky nibbs (719492) | more than 5 years ago | (#25366205)

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 superlatives. Also, get off my lawn! :-D http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Saturn&Display=Facts&System=Metric [nasa.gov]

Re:Saturn = HUGE BALL OF WEATHER = Earth volume x7 (1)

Rastl (955935) | more than 5 years ago | (#25369097)

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. Without a reference they can understand there's no comprehension. It's like saying the storm area is the size of [insert state here]. Sure, it may be considered dumbing down the science but if they can get people interested then that isn't such a bad thing.

Get off my intarwebz you whippersnappers!

Re:Saturn=HUGE BALL OF WEATHER = Earth volume x763 (1)

lanky nibbs (719492) | more than 5 years ago | (#25370429)

>>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 planetary or astronomical research reporting be prefaced with with Douglas Adams' "you may think it's a long way to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts compared to space" quote as mantra. And when referencing weather on our gas giant planets, especially on Saturn & Jupiter, it be prefaced with "Saturn is a huge ball of weather 763 times Earth's volume*"

*That makes Saturn sound very loud, doesn't it? Ah, well, my heart's no longer in this grumpy rant, so I regretfully let it go. (but seriously, you are STILL ON MY LAWN!)

Re:Saturn=HUGE BALL OF WEATHER = Earth volume x763 (1)

Rastl (955935) | more than 5 years ago | (#25370593)

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 so this kind of thing wouldn't be necessary. Your footnote about the multiple meanings of the measure 'volume' is just a sad fact these days.

I'm gonna stay on your lawn until you offer me a chilled beverage with salt on the rim of the glass and a chair. Honestly, what kind of hospitality do you call this??

Re:Saturn=HUGE BALL OF WEATHER = Earth volume x763 (1)

lanky nibbs (719492) | more than 5 years ago | (#25371771)

'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.

Standing waves (1)

XXL_Jones (1385097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25366261)

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.

that's not simply a swirl... (1)

mennucc1 (568756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25367053)

... it is a logo. Saturn runs Debian GNU/Linux.

Global Warming (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25368721)

I am sure Al Gore and his lying cronies: do-nothing, good for nothing Nancy Pelosi and her idiot cronies as well as all those scientists on their payroll will blame in on Bush and global warming. http://www.discussglobalwarming.com/blog

That's just tessellation (3, Funny)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 5 years ago | (#25370387)

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.

So here's my question... (1)

theotherbastard (939373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25371187)

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!

Re:So here's my question... (1)

thered2001 (1257950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25382461)

I think that would really piss off the Invaders. John Varley can back me on this.

Am I the only one who misread this as... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25371773)

...Cylons?

Damn Markovians... (1)

Rihahn (879725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25373561)

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...
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