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Cassini Gets Amazing Views of Saturn's Hexagon

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the cassini-is-the-best dept.


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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Let me be among the first... (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#45621677)

...to 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.

Re:Let me be among the first... (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#45621781)

I have no clue what I'm looking at.

The Saturnian Department of Defense? The funny thing is, it looks like it's full of staaaaaaa... [carrier lost]

Re:Let me be among the first... (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 4 months ago | (#45623401)

Another boring cyclohexane buckyball with the kind of bond elasticity commonly seen in low temperature gases = BOOOORING!

Nothing to see here, move along ...

Re:Let me be among the first... (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 4 months ago | (#45622243)

...to 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.

Really? I'd be shocked. This is Saturn not Uranus.

Re:Let me be among the first... (1)

beckett (27524) | about 4 months ago | (#45624869)

Farnsworth: Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all.

Fry: Oh. What's it called now?

Farnsworth: Urectum.

Re:Let me be among the first... (1)

Grog6 (85859) | about 4 months ago | (#45623313)

I'm no doctor, but if I ever see a girl with a bunghole that looks like that, I'm running, naked or not. :)

Re:Let me be among the first... (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 4 months ago | (#45626383)

I have no clue what I'm looking at.

James Woods: What? Look, I'm texting you her picture. Just tell me if you think she's hot enough.
Peter: What is this a picture of? Is that the bottom of a white pumpkin?

Compass (1)

TempleOS (3394245) | about 4 months ago | (#45621749)

God said it was from magnetic field. Maybe, the iron core precesses and spiral graph hex is formed with iron filing-like particles in the atmosphere. God says "on enjoying approved IV undo rmunday contests vocally sweetness buyers wishes Virgin turn whirlings over retired deceitful bitterness thefts excelling "

Re:Compass (4, Funny)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 4 months ago | (#45621867)

No, it’s just that God prefers Allen wrenches.

Re:Compass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45621999)

Metric or standard??

Re:Compass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45622107)

metric IS the standard.

Re:Compass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45622117)

Metric or standard??

Neither is the one true unit type. Nobody has gotten it right yet.

Re:Compass (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 4 months ago | (#45622267)

I just measure things by comparing them to a few trusty old plancks.

Re:Compass (1)

Grog6 (85859) | about 4 months ago | (#45623341)

A mole of plancks would be a usable universal length; just exactly how long that is is another question. :)

Re:Compass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45623867)

However, the mole itself is an arbitrary number, not a "deep universal" constant: the number of Carbon-12 atoms in 12 grams of Carbon-12. This depends on the arbitrary "gram" unit, which is no more "universal" than anything else.

Why a Hexagon? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#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.

Re:Why a Hexagon? (5, Informative)

BattleApple (956701) | about 4 months ago | (#45621777)

Re:Why a Hexagon? (2)

onepoint (301486) | about 4 months ago | (#45622227)

WOW that was a great link, and the explanations were easy to understand.
what I did like was the particle presentation video of the hexagon, very cool.

I got to admit, i might have observed this before, but never paid attention to it.
in the video, you could see and understand how the points of the hexagon are made.


Frustrating... (1)

jddeluxe (965655) | about 4 months ago | (#45621759)

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???

Re:Frustrating... (0)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#45622159)

It does not "beg" any questions.


Re:Frustrating... (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 4 months ago | (#45623377)

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 supposed to mean ... and people wanting to use "avoid the question" will just say "Hey, you are avoiding the question! lol lmafo ".

Re:Frustrating... (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 4 months ago | (#45624631)

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".]

Re:Frustrating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45624945)

"Begging the question" is a mistranslation of "petitio principii". The Latin means, literally, "a petition from the start". That is to say, the arguer "petitioned" the audience into accepting the conclusion "from the start" of the argument.

Re:Frustrating... (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | about 4 months ago | (#45630929)

Oh really?

Collins English Dictionary [thefreedictionary.com]
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 [thefreedictionary.com]
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 who believes that English should be proscriptive like French:

What is going on (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 4 months ago | (#45621767)

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 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/247/4947/1206 [sciencemag.org]. Also, relevant SMBC: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=1930 [smbc-comics.com].

Re:What is going on (3, Interesting)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 4 months ago | (#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.

Re:What is going on (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 4 months ago | (#45622179)

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.

Re:What is going on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626961)

We see similar structures right here on earth (e.g. a rough 5 sided figure [st-andrews.ac.uk])), just a big difference is there is a lot more stuff in the way and such weather is a lot more transient, not lasting very long.

Sad truth of the internet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45621833)

This would've gotten a lot more views had it said, "Cassini Gets Amazing Views of Saturn's Box"

I know something better (3, Funny)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 4 months ago | (#45621887)

The Hexagon of Saturn is nothing compared with the Delta of Venus
I want some pics of that.

Re:I know something better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45621921)

Or the Aperature of Uranus

Round (1)

sseymour1978 (939809) | about 4 months ago | (#45621915)

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.

Re:Round (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45622147)

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).

Re:Round (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#45625155)

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

Does it use circular logic?

Re:Round (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625789)

I agree. It's probably an artifact of the resonant frequency of the system. Mass, density of atmosphere, radius, gravitation, inertia, that sort of thing. Not that I'm a physicist or anything.

8 frames is a "movie" (1)

thermopile (571680) | about 4 months ago | (#45622193)

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.

Re:8 frames of clear skies (1)

AmbiLobe (2999721) | about 4 months ago | (#45623167)

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 the .gif movies center.

Re:8 frames of clear skies (2)

Teun (17872) | about 4 months ago | (#45623773)

A rocky core, yeah right :)

http://www.universetoday.com/15322/ [universetoday.com]

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.

Did you Notice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45623197)

...the smaller storm system @ the 5:25 position? It appears to rotating opposite to the central system.


Where's my socket wrench? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45623199)

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.

Oblig. XKCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45639195)

From today even:


I bet this one will be useful in MANY situations.

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