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Cassini Probes the Hexagon On Saturn

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the monoliths dept.

Space 280

Riding with Robots sends us to a NASA page with photos of a little-understood hexagonal shape surrounding Saturn's north pole. "This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet." This structure was discovered by the Voyager probes over 20 years ago (here's an 18-year-old note on the mystery). The fact that it's still in place means it is stable and long-lived. Scientists have no idea what causes the hexagon. It's nearly big enough to fit four earths inside — comfortably larger than Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The article has an animation of clouds moving within the hexagon captured in infrared light.

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North Pole? (5, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507127)

The Saturn North Pole? Isn't that where Saturn Clause lives? Maybe he has something to do with it.

Re:North Pole? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507605)

I, for one, welcome our new hexagonal-shaped structure-building alien santa clause overlords.

Mmmm, elves... (1)

kale77in (703316) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507867)

The Saturn North Pole? Isn't that where Saturn Clause lives? Maybe he has something to do with it.

Yes, that'll be Saturn Claus, devouring a few stray elves [usc.edu] now that the kids are gone. It's most likely a big hexagonal bloodstain...

/. story about spinning water? (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507131)

Wasn't there a story here within the last six months or so about spinning a bucket of water at the right speed and having it form geometric forms, including a hexagon?

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507171)

yes, exactly my thoughts too. There was a story about that. He who finds the link gets the karma :)

Re:/. story about spinning water? (5, Informative)

sfcfagwdse (805746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507193)

Here's one: http://www.physorg.com/news66924222.html [physorg.com]

Re:/. story about spinning water? (4, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507815)

The curious thing, though, is that the south pole is very different -- almost looks like a human eye [space.com] . I wonder what sort of rotational effect could cause such an asymmetry between north and south poles?

Goatse? (3, Funny)

Seoulstriker (748895) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507905)

"almost looks like a human eye."

Looks more like Saturn is giving us a Goatse, spreading wide for the camera.

But on the flipside... (0, Troll)

Seoulstriker (748895) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507947)

On the "flipside", they do call it a "One-Eyed Monster"...

Re:/. story about spinning water? (4, Informative)

samkass (174571) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507197)

Typing "spinning water hexagon Slashdot" into Google turned up this article [slashdot.org]

Re:/. story about spinning water? (5, Informative)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507687)

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507927)

Eh, the mechanism probably wouldn't hold, but the fact that these shapes can be generated in a liquid by a rotating body is pretty suggestive, when we see the same thing writ large. Seems like it has to be the expression of a somewhat similar physical phenomenon, though how the hell we'll test it I have no idea.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (2, Insightful)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508143)

...though how the hell we'll test it I have no idea.

Which is why such speculation is somewhat useless.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

dr_strang (32799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508027)

I guess this puts a whole new meaning to the term 'swirly'.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507203)

Wasn't there a story here within the last six months or so about spinning a bucket of water at the right speed and having it form geometric forms, including a hexagon?

http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060515/full/060515 -17.html [nature.com]

Posted AC so as not to be accused of being a karma whore.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507279)

Oh come on! Sometimes you deserve the karma, you know. But thanks, whoever you are!

Re:/. story about spinning water? (5, Interesting)

omnilynx (961400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507273)

Another related possibility is spherical harmonics [wikipedia.org] , similar to what happens in the sun. The planet would be effectively resonating like a 3D drumhead. If that's true, there should be other points on the surface that exhibit similar phenomena.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

hairpinblue (1026846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507311)

Polynomial spheroid harmonics?

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507393)

That link made my brain hurt. I wish I knew more math. Can spherical harmonics make a six sided figure? It didn't look like it from the wiki page, but aside from the pictures, I'd have no way of knowing.

That spinning water thing seems like a plausible explanation, though, as some parts of a gas giants atmosphere spin faster than others. Different rotational speeds in the band just below the pole might act like the wall in the bucket and cause a similar geometric effect.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

omnilynx (961400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507495)

Yes, it can. Further down the page, check out the "l=3, m=3, l-m=0" graphic. It's like a six-sided beach ball. More complicated structures can also be induced.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

honkycat (249849) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507877)

Spherical harmonics form a "complete basis" for functions on a sphere. This means you can represent any suitably smooth function as a sum of these harmonics. Here, "suitably smooth" is my stand-in for a precise mathematical requirement -- probably continuous and continuously differentiable, but I don't remember for sure off-hand. Basically, as long as your function doesn't have discrete jumps in it, you can expand it in spherical harmonics.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

honkycat (249849) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507985)

Oh wait, I'm a moron. They're not a complete basis, except for the angular dependence of solutions to Laplace's equation so the restriction on the function is substantially tighter than I suggested. Never mind. Please mod me -1: hasn't done real math in too long.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

Somnus (46089) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507585)

Systems that show such behavior are always "rigid," and so are forced to be ordered. In the case of a drum head it's the tension and the immobility of the boundary; the sun, the strong fusion-driven magnetic dynamics in play with the strong gravity. In quantum systems like superfluids and Fermi liquids, you get this for "free" due to quantization.

Is Saturn, a neutral, non-nuclear gas giant, similarly constrained? If so, fascinating.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (2, Interesting)

omnilynx (961400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507881)

Well, after doing some actual research on this, it looks like there are some possible contributors to spherical harmonics on Saturn, but that probably isn't the source of the hexagonal structure, since a similar structure does not appear at the south pole [aas.org] . Apparently it's probably due to a polar jet, similar to the ripples you see around a bathtub drain.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (1)

alcmaeon (684971) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507325)

You know, the similar stories from Denmark would have been more interesting if they had spun the container instead of putting an agitator into the middle of the water.

Re:/. story about spinning water? (5, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507457)

Maybe the solid core is acting like the agitator? Perhaps there are rougher features at the northern pole than there are at the southern, explaining why there is no southern hexagon. The article says the hexagon rotates at the same speed as radio emissions from Saturn, which they assume is the same speed as the core rotates.

Richard C. Hoagland - uhggg (1)

hottoh (540941) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507573)

faaak... Richard C. Hoagland had this story in 2004.

I cannot wait for Richard C. Hoagland to write another diatribe about Hyperdimensional Hurricanes. :-|

http://www.enterprisemission.com/hurricane1.htm [enterprisemission.com]

Re:/. story about spinning water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507601)

There was once a theory that the center of Jupiter was giant diamond crystal. From some orientations, a diamond crystal has a hexagon shape. Maybe we are seeing the eddy currents of a summerged diamond here.

Cassini Probes the Hexagon On Saturn (0)

The Zon (969911) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507151)

It's nearly big enough to fit four earths inside -- comfortably larger than Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
You're just posting this story for the sex jokes. Admit it.

it must be (4, Funny)

unfortunateson (527551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507167)

space bees

Re:it must be bees (4, Funny)

saskboy (600063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507485)

I agree, the only logical conclusion is that Saturn has been colonized by giant space bees who have made it their honey comb hive.

Re:it must be bees (3, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507865)

Well, everybody knows that: honeycomb big, yeah, yeah, yeah. If only these scientists had just taken the time to watch Saturday morning cartoons, or Futurama.

Re:it must be bees (1)

mycroft822 (822167) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508005)

Where is Johnnie Rico [wikipedia.org] when you need him?

Re:it must be bees (1)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508073)

Unless Grant Callin was more prophetic than he would believe and the Hexies of Tharthee (from his novels Saturn Alia [amazon.com] and A Lion on Tharthee [amazon.com] ) really exist... in which case there's a plaque down there with information inscribed on it.

Actually (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507913)

It is a secret US military presence, designed to be the successor to the Pentagon in the event of a global catastrophe.

OOps, I was not supposed to say that. Are those black suburbans pulling up in my driveway?

Re:it must be (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508049)

I, for one, welcome our new space-bee overlords.

Re:the honey comb hideout! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18508119)

Honey Comb's big!(4 earths) Yeah, yeah, yeah! It's not small...no, no, no!

Lens feature? (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507179)

Well, is it? Were the camera lenses made in the same way?

intelligent life (4, Funny)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507187)

With Fife Symington coming forward and saying that the Phoenix Lights from 1997 were actually an "other worldly craft" - how much longer can we believe ourselves to be alone in the universe?

It's obvious to me, as a trained ufologist, that this is not a natural phenomenon. This hexagonal structure was BUILT by intelligent life.

Re:intelligent life (5, Funny)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507247)

It's obvious to me, as a trained ufologist, that this is not a natural phenomenon.

It looks like this is the moment that years of hard work at the Correspondence College of Tampa prepared you for. Congratulations. (end obscure Simpsons reference).

Typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507285)

It's obvious to me, as a trained oafologist, that this is not a natural phenomenon

There, fixed that for ya

Re:intelligent life... where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507327)

I, for one, welcome our hexagonal overlords...

no seriously...

spin a bucket of water.

take some acid.

write a thesis. ... ?

PROFIT!

A geometric shape in space... and it's not a sphere!?? THIS IS NEWS!

Re:intelligent life (2, Funny)

CommunistHamster (949406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507459)

Which university does a degree in Ufology?

Re:intelligent life (2, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507483)

> This hexagonal structure was BUILT by intelligent life.

Did you read the article? It's not a stationary solid structure. It's a long-term atmospheric feature, like Jupiter's great red spot, only shaped like a hexagon.

Re:intelligent life (5, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507805)

Intelligent life couldn't "build" a long-term atmospheric feature?

What are we to make of Lando's cloud city?

THINK ABOUT LANDO FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE YOU RACIST

Re:intelligent life (2, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507813)

Did you minor in bad science-ology? There are about ten links above you who show how the same shapes can be made in liquid water with a spinning plate...this suggests that the spinning of Saturn's core could very well be creating the same effect in the dense atmosphere.

But let's not waste any opportunity in jumping to conclusions, because, as everyone knows, there are no [scottcamazine.com] straight [aliki.co.uk] lines [juniata.edu] in [howstuffworks.com] nature [olegvolk.net] .

Why is it all the UFO freaks have no grasp of science? Why does that follow?

raaarrrrrgh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18508125)

you have NO EVIDENCE

SCIENCE says this thing EVOLVED from a simple LINE

WHY DO YOU HATE EUCLID

Re:intelligent life (1)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508145)

Hehe, I like these sarcastic posts. So many people will get it wrong - you are inviting us to draw the inference that, like the Phoenix lights, the hexagon is caused by "flares dropped during a USAF training exercise." Clearly, this makes no sense.

Aliens are therefore responsible for both phenomenon.

bad mapping (1)

thhamm (764787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507191)

hexagonal shape surrounding Saturn's north pole

damn. you win again, polar coordinates [www.mta.ca] ...

Better than the 'Face' on Mars (2, Insightful)

skywire (469351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507217)

WIth something like this to get excited about, who needs the "Face on Mars"?

"My God, it's full of stars." (2, Interesting)

raddan (519638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507239)

'Nuff said.

Obligitoary ... (1)

Artie_Effim (700781) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507251)

I, 4 1, welcome our new 6 sided overlords!

gov!!! (1)

blakmac (987934) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507259)

it's kind of like the alien's version of the pentagon. except with more sides. which means more brainpower can fit into the building. you should start to worry when geometric shapes begin to show up on uranus.

The Monolith! (1)

FMota91 (1050752) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507269)

*dons tinfoil hat*

Aha! So that's where it was!

But wasn't it supposed to be rectangular? Oh well, this will do. Just wait till it starts sucking the atmosphere in.

Re:The Monolith! (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508121)

Who says monoliths must be rectangular?

Anyway, would be funny if after they send a probe there the NASA engineers exclaim "Its full of stars!"

old hardware? (5, Funny)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507289)

Perhaps the universe is just poorly anti-aliased

I know what it is (1)

kiick (102190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507309)

It's the monoliths [wikipedia.org] playing games with us.

wrong novel -- try Grant Callin's "Saturnalia" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507763)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia_(novel)/ [wikipedia.org]

Hexagonal objects ... planted on Saturn (and elsewhere through our solar system) by extraterrestrials and containing puzzles that will show us where to contact them after decoding?

Eerie.

World out of Time (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507397)

I'm thinking Niven's planetary Ramjet.

Thwarting the Terrorists (2, Funny)

Grashnak (1003791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507409)

They may have gotten to our Pentagon, but I damn well double dare them to try and strike at our hexagon!

Nothing to see here... (2, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507423)

These are just tool marks left by the builders on Magrathea. Nothing to see here; please move along...

Re:Nothing to see here... (1)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507925)

It seems it wasn't the galactic stock market after all. The Magratheans were forced into hibernation by much more insidious foes: Crafty Allen Wrench Salesmen.

Mystery Solved (5, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507431)

When God created Saturn, he used a low polygon count to speed up the rendering process.

Oblig. Simpsons (0)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507439)

I for one welcome our Giant Spinning Hexagon Overlords.

A truly bizzare hexagon (5, Funny)

Suzumushi (907838) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507449)

From TFA, "This nighttime view of Saturn's north pole shows a bizarre six-sided hexagon"

Last time I checked, all hexagons had six sides...

Re:A truly bizzare hexagon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507907)

Oh, sure, maybe in your perfect universe.

In the real world we have to count every time to be certain.

I am from the future (1)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507453)

And I would ask you not to reveal the future location of the DoD, thank you! :D

Simple (1)

Jedi Holocron (225191) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507479)

It is a giant ice crystal.

Largest snowflake ev'ah....

Fortress of Solitude (3, Funny)

alienmole (15522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507497)

Superman had to abandon his Earth-based Fortress of Solitude, which was starting to melt due to global warming, not to mention all the annoying scientific expeditions coming by to drill for ice cores. He figured he'd try Saturn's north pole for a change. The commute's a bit longer, but there's less traffic.

That's no polar hexagon.... (1)

Livius (318358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507525)

...that's a space station!

The top photo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507543)

makes it look like a portal to Hell.

Pattern is BLUE! (1)

TigerPlish (174064) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507613)

That's no hexagon.. that's an AT Field!

Re:Pattern is BLUE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507635)

Nice Evangelion reference!

Wicked cool (1)

Noexit (107629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507625)

That's what I'd imagine hell to look like. Perhaps it's a giant industro-military office building?

I see pattern (5, Funny)

Al Al Cool J (234559) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507637)

Saturn is the sixth planet out.
A hexagon has six sides.
There is a second hexagon inside the first. Another six sides.

6-6-6

Hmmm, that number kind of has a ring to it. And so does Saturn.

Coincidence?

Re:I see pattern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507795)

sorry to break tihs apolyptic thing, but saturn hs 6 letters in its name. That's 4 sixes. It doesn't work anymore.

Besides that, you're forgetting just about everything written about that number.

Re:I see pattern (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508077)

I know this is a joke but wasn't it semi-recently published that "666" is thought to be an invalid translation and the correct number is really "616" and/or "665"?

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTI CLE_ID=44169 [worldnetdaily.com]
http://www.csad.ox.ac.uk/POxy/beast616.htm [ox.ac.uk]

The above are links from some quick googling. ;) I saw they were topical but didn't actually read them.

Ya I know...it spoils the joke. :(

Blend Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18507641)

Hasn't anyone else ever looked at the patterns that appear in the bottom of a running blender when you are making a shake?

Dharma Project (2)

bigredradio (631970) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507661)

This is just a big dharma project logo.

Re:Dharma Project (1)

Shawn Parr (712602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508035)

Nice try, but the Dharma logos are octagons not hexagons.

All these worlds are yours . . . (0, Redundant)

ColGraff (454761) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507663)

Except for Titan. Attempt no landing there.

So Stanley Kubrick... (1)

d3m0nCr4t (869332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507705)

... was dead wrong, it wasn't Jupiter, it's Saturn. :p

Re:So Stanley Kubrick... (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507893)

Jupiter has one too.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not unheard of for natural weather phenomena to form geometric patterns.

The eye of a hurricane is more hexagonal/octogonal than circular if you look at one, each "arm" of the hurricane sort of defines a side in the eye.

Obviously... (5, Funny)

ingo23 (848315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507721)

... it's a nut holding the rings in place. You can even see the bolt.

I can't find it (0, Redundant)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507735)

But maybe someone can. I'm fuzzy on the details, but I'm sure I recall a story in the last year or so of someone (I think it was in Holland or Belgium?) spinning or stirring water at high speed in a vaccuum or some other odd pressure environment, and getting a wierd, six-way figure in the vortex when viewed from above?

Sorry, no time to search out the details, but maybe the mechanics of that might lend themselves to analyzing this?

Is this (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507737)

The first Mimzy?

Heh, been seeing that trailer a lot lately and this picture reminded me of that.

Gah, they found it! (3, Funny)

Fweeky (41046) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507781)

Do you have *any* idea how hard it is to find a parking space for that thing where some yob's not going to key it or deflate the tires or poke at it with a spectrograph? :(

I should have got the next model down, then I could have pretended it was just another moon, but nooooooo, I had to get the hexagonal UltraSUV because it was "different" and had more legroom.

Hm, wonder if that guy who owns Mimas would do a swap. His camo paint job looks *so* much less convincing after those stupid films.

Spore? (1)

Elouise (972935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507799)

See this is what happens when you let robin williams loose with spore - and he starts putting monoliths on planets... "The player may place a "monolith" (à la 2001: A Space Odyssey) on a planet, triggering evolution of intelligent life, then come back later to see what has evolved." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spore_(video_game) [wikipedia.org]

The conspiracy theorists were right all along (1)

tsoldrin (969533) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507819)

That's the Illuminati All Seeing Eye!

Bad UV mapping (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507863)

Guess the machines never thought we'd get that far away from the city. At least it's not a skybox.

2001 (1)

Diordna (815458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507889)

In other news, a monolith was unearthed in the Tycho crater on the moon yesterday and began emitting signals off into space...

It's the Magnetic field (1)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507899)

The scientific explanation for this will undoubtedly be:

"It must be the magnetic field."

I, on the other hand, think it's just a huge snowflake.

Hexies (1)

ek_adam (442283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507923)

It's the hexies from Saturnalia. [amazon.com]

Easy enough, Jupiter is Jewish (3, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#18507997)

Both words, Jupiter and Jewish start from 'J' and hexagon can be used to depict the star of David. The mystery is solved and Jupiter should really be renamed into Jewpiter. Oh, and it's closed on Saturdays. The official anthem is 7:40

Sign of intelligent life (3, Funny)

ajnsue (773317) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508011)

intelligent life beyond or solar system erected a giant stop sign indicating where it wants mankind to just slow down before it gets any big ideas about immigrating and lowering the galactic minimum wage.

Or, its warning sign placed there by the Vogon Constructor Fleet

Space puns galore (1)

sh4na (107124) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508123)

The comment threads on this one definitely break some sort of record on number of puns per line. Nice to see such deep, significant scientific discussion! :)

hexagram has always been the symbol for Saturn (1)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 7 years ago | (#18508133)

The hexagramm, the 6-pointed star has always been the occult mystery
school symbol for Saturn for thousands of years. Contrary to popular
believe, the hexagram is not just a jewish symbol but goes back thousands
of years to the mystery schools of old.

its just a frequence give off,..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18508135)

by the speed at which the object it rotating, check the RPM against the RPM of the water bucket device, match the shape, and you'll have the same speeds.
works with most liquid and gases.
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