Saturn’s hexagon is thought to form from a wavy jet stream going around Saturn’s north pole.  It’s a huge feature some 20,000 miles across with 200 mph winds circling a massive hurricane in the center.

Saturn’s hexagon was first discovered in 1988 when the Voyager probes passed Saturn in 1980 and 1981.  NASA further explored Saturn and its moons with the launch of Cassini in Oct. 15, 1997.  Cassini traveled 2.2 billion miles to reach Saturn on July 1, 2004 and scientists recieved confirmation on Saturn’s hexagon.

Cassini captured many images over a 10-hour time span giving scientists an unprecedented look at the various jet streams that make up the hexagon

 

This massive hurricane has been there for decades if not centuries according to Andrew Ingersoll, Cassini team from Caltech.

Usually hurricanes and turbulent weather lose energy and dissipate when they encounter friction from solids like land or ice.  Saturn’s hexagon probably persists because Saturn is a giant ball of gas, much like Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot”.

New findings published in Astrophysical Journal Letters by Professor Raúl Morales-Juberías suggest the winds beneath the jet stream are causing the air currents to produce this rotating hexagon.

 

References: JPL NASA

 

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