Zooming in on Saturn’s Hexagon
30 December 2013
 
 
Fig. 1
Saturn’s hexagon, a giant hexagon-shaped cloud pattern in Saturn’s north polar region


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA recently published a wonderful natural-color image of Saturn’s hexagon, a huge hexagon-like cloud system on Saturn’s north pole. The image was obtained by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft.

The sides of Saturn’s hexagons are each more than 13,000 km, in length, or as large as Earth’s diameter. The hexagon is about twice larger than Earth, in diameter. A swirling hurricane-like storm lies within the hexagon, believed to be high speed winds that rotate about Saturn’s pole.

Saturn’s hexagon was first observed by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, when it visited Saturn, in 1981. When the Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn, in July 2004, the Saturnian north pole was in darkness, as it was Saturnian northern winter. However, Saturn’s seasons advanced, as the planet orbits the Sun slowly, bringing sunlight to the north pole, in 2009, at the start of Saturn’s northern spring.

Images taken in red, green and blue filters were combined to produce Fig. 1. They were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera, on 22 July 2013, at a distance of approximately 984,000 km from Saturn.

References
www.nasa.gov/
http://www.nasa.gov/cassini
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist
 
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