Is Saturn’s North Pole Hexagonal?

Titan News

Is it true that Saturn’s north pole is hexagonal?

… apparently yes …

The shape of the hexagonal pole was first recognized by Voyager 1 in 1981, who flew past Saturn and took several photos.

Years later, because astronomers were curious, they dispatched another unmanned spacecraft that specialized in monitoring Saturn and its natural satellites, Cassini-Huygens (which is basically a combination of two spacecraft). This ride was launched in 1997 and finally reached Saturn in 2004.

This is one of the photos.

NBC news

The hexagonal shape is about 14,500 kilometers long (aka larger than the Earth’s diameter) with a total width of the hexagon reaching 29,000 kilometers. The wind speed itself is 320 kilometers / hour.

Immediately the question arose. Why is it hexagonal? Why not be shaped like a heart, for example, so that it is romantic and has more to do with rings? Or why is it only in the North Pole, while not even in the south? Why is it that only Saturn has it, while other gas giant planets like Jupiter don’t?

Through the data Cassini collected, astronomers studied the composition of the atmosphere and the speed and direction of the winds on the giant planet’s surface, and finally made models on Earth, either directly using tubes filled with water, or indirectly using computers.

The most famous hypothesis regarding this hexagonal shape is the difference in wind speed and direction around the poles and at the north pole itself. This difference makes the clouds around the poles angled – as evidenced by a water-based experiment that set different rotational speeds at the center of the tube from at the edge of the tube, as well as from a computer:


Through this computer modeling it is also known that storm-like vortices appear south of Saturn, then interact on the six sides of this hexagon and get carried away.

The hexagon effect is also not formed if the velocity and viscosity of the atmosphere is not within a certain range, so that the same clouds at Saturn’s south pole do not experience the same phenomenon, nor does Jupiter’s thicker atmosphere.

Even so, in some water vortex experiments, scientists also found the formation of triangles or octagonals, but the most part is still hexagonal. Until we are able to send more capable spacecraft, an explanation of this is still needed.

Saturn’s south pole itself has more “normal” clouds like this …

NASA Science

Called the Eye of Saturn.

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