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   Undertoad  Wednesday Mar 28 09:50 AM

March 28, 2007: Hexagon on Saturn



Many sites are highlighting this today, and it's been a long time since we've had a space image.

The explanation at space.com is pretty good:

Quote:
One of the most bizarre weather patterns known has been photographed at Saturn, where astronomers have spotted a huge, six-sided feature circling the north pole.

Rather than the normally sinuous cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon.

The honeycomb-like feature has been seen before. NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged it more than two decades ago. Now, having spotted it with the Cassini spacecraft, scientists conclude it is a long-lasting oddity.

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere, where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate, is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."
How big is it? (Hey, that's a personal question)
Quote:
The hexagon is nearly 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it. The thermal imagery shows the hexagon extends about 60 miles (100 kilometers) down into the clouds.
As for me, I'm more concerned about the sideways skull that appears at the bottom of the image, near the middle.


Sheldonrs  Wednesday Mar 28 10:20 AM

I don't know what it is but I'm sure we'll find a way to blow it up or exploit it's natural resources.



Sundae  Wednesday Mar 28 11:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Undertoad View Post
As for me, I'm more concerned about the sideways skull that appears at the bottom of the image, near the middle.
Argh! Wish I hadn't read that bit - it's a whole swirl of skulls to me now.

Last time I saw swirling skulls like that was after I'd sampled some interesting fungi


Sheldonrs  Wednesday Mar 28 11:52 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sundae Girl View Post
Argh! Wish I hadn't read that bit - it's a whole swirl of skulls to me now.

Last time I saw swirling skulls like that was after I'd sampled some interesting fungi
I know a lot of interesting fun guys.


TheMercenary  Wednesday Mar 28 11:55 AM

Very cool, thanks for the link.



piercehawkeye45  Wednesday Mar 28 12:52 PM

I don't see the skull...



BigV  Wednesday Mar 28 01:02 PM

It's spinning very quickly.

Quote:
The researchers found that once the plate was spinning so fast that the water span out to the sides, creating a hole of air in the middle, the dry patch wasn't circular as might be expected. Instead it evolved, as the bucket's spin sped up, from an ellipse to a three-sided star, to a square, a pentagon, and, at the highest speeds investigated, a hexagon.

...

Similar polygonal shapes have been reported in gigantic, vortex-like flows in the atmosphere of our planet and others, as well as in the eye of a hurricane. And an immense, hexagonal-shaped vortex was spotted by the Voyager spacecraft at the northern pole of the gas-giant planet Saturn.
No word on the skulls, though.


milkfish  Wednesday Mar 28 01:11 PM

Hand me a crescent wrench.



Shawnee123  Wednesday Mar 28 02:37 PM

The skull I see is a cartoonish sort of skull making an "ooooo" sort of face; it's also a bit monkey-like. It's at about the 225 of a compass.



glatt  Wednesday Mar 28 02:45 PM

This is the skull I see. Alien skull.



zippyt  Wednesday Mar 28 02:52 PM

So thats where they moved the Thunderdome to !!!

Oh and I see skulls , and distorted faces ALL around the Hex ,
Could this be the tourtured soals that perrished in the Feared ThunderDome ????



BobT  Wednesday Mar 28 04:35 PM

What do you call a mushroom that takes you out and feeds you drinks?...... A fungi to be with.



OB  Wednesday Mar 28 05:41 PM

*shivers* Some of those skulls remind me of Munch's "The Scream".



HungLikeJesus  Wednesday Mar 28 06:13 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by milkfish View Post
Hand me a crescent wrench.
Crescent wrench! No, you need a 25,000,000,000-mm 6-point socket, with at least a 3/4 inch drive and a really long handle.


Happy Monkey  Wednesday Mar 28 06:18 PM

Give me a wrench long enough and a lugnut on which to place it, and I shall move the world.



Elspode  Wednesday Mar 28 07:28 PM

Didn't anyone see 2010? That's a big STOP sign...someone doesn't want us exploring any further out.



SteveDallas  Wednesday Mar 28 07:54 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Undertoad View Post
As for me, I'm more concerned about the sideways skull that appears at the bottom of the image, near the middle.
There's got to be a Jesus or a Virgin Mary in there somewhere.


SydneyBoy  Wednesday Mar 28 08:31 PM

No Steve, that skull IS a Jesus.

Muahahaha!!



rkzenrage  Wednesday Mar 28 08:50 PM

Hold my beer.



SteveDallas  Wednesday Mar 28 08:54 PM

I wonder what the Velikovsky-ites are making of it.



milkfish  Wednesday Mar 28 09:52 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by HungLikeJesus View Post
Crescent wrench! No, you need a 25,000,000,000-mm 6-point socket, with at least a 3/4 inch drive and a really long handle.
What, it's metric? Aw, I hate working on these foreign models.


Slight  Thursday Mar 29 12:53 AM

My theory is that it is not a hexagon but instead a static sine wave of 6 wave lengths. We see it as a hexagon because it is mapped on a circle. I created this image using the polar coordinates filter in photoshop Attachment 12224



SPUCK  Thursday Mar 29 04:47 AM

Nice! I agree.



Clodfobble  Thursday Mar 29 09:03 AM

Slight that is an awesome explanation, thanks!



Flint  Thursday Mar 29 09:36 AM

But what about the skulls?



elSicomoro  Thursday Mar 29 09:55 AM

Well, this was an interesting conversation, until Slight got all serious and fucked it up...

(Seriously...that's awesome...I never would have thought of that. Of course, I hated trig.)



SteveDallas  Thursday Mar 29 10:06 AM

Wait, Photoshop has a polar coordinates filter? What's next? Path integrals?



milkfish  Thursday Mar 29 02:32 PM

A skull filter.



xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Mar 29 03:58 PM

So what causes a 60 mile high sine wave around the pole? Does it extend to, or close to, the surface? Is the cloud mass greater, closer to the pole, causing a sine wave where the boundary lies?

That's the trouble with space, or science in general, every time you come up with a good answer, it just creates more questions.



BigV  Thursday Mar 29 04:08 PM

It's not a sine wave. It's the result of the viscous fluid (the atmosphere) lagging behind the spinning container (the planet)*. The shape is a ... mathematical coincidence. Rather, our perception of some meaningful pattern is the coincidence. The shape is just the math and physics.



* Or just lagging compared to the parts of the atmosphere that are spinning at different rates. Similar phenomena have been observed in the eyes of terrestrial hurricanes. I provided a good link above.



edit: No, I haven't recently returned from a vacation on Saturn, Uranus (or anyone else's for that matter... ha ha)



Clodfobble  Thursday Mar 29 04:33 PM

But a sine wave is nothing but a shape too, really... it doesn't imply a specific medium or source or anything like that.



rkzenrage  Thursday Mar 29 05:04 PM

Alien metal concert.



Cloud  Thursday Mar 29 06:48 PM

love the skulls!



Undertoad  Thursday Mar 29 09:06 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveDallas View Post
Wait, Photoshop has a polar coordinates filter? What's next? Path integrals?
I was thinking about this, and you know, it's not surprising... the bulk of the best things that Photoshop can do is just really hard math! All the filters are math in disguise.


xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Mar 29 11:45 PM

Is that why it's so big? I have 4 and 5 and 5.5 and gave 'em up for elements, because I'm to dumb to use all the stuff in the full size versions. Hell, I've been using elements for a couple years and just discovered it has talk bubbles. Duh



Kagen4o4  Tuesday Apr 3 06:46 AM

APoD finally got around to it. probably influenced by the cellar

http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap070403.html



xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Apr 3 08:45 PM

The movie clip shows the inside and out side of the hex rotating at the same relative speed.



juggle5  Saturday Apr 7 11:46 AM

I think it's a polar jet stream. The earth's northern hemisphere jet stream often falls into stable 4-wave and 5-wave patterns lasting several weeks, 4-wave most common in summer and 5-wave in winter. My meteorology professor said that six and seven wave patterns happened but were very unstable. I guess a six wave pattern on Saturn is very stable.



milkfish  Sunday Apr 8 11:56 AM

Does the Earth's northern hemisphere jet stream also have skulls in it? Like around Iceland?



xoxoxoBruce  Sunday Apr 8 09:55 PM

Yes, although some are being used.



celina  Tuesday Apr 10 08:12 PM

great pics.



DanaC  Tuesday Apr 10 08:31 PM

Fascinating. The sciencey stuff kind of lost me....I never could get my head around trig. I mean....doing some of the equations with a log book as per high school exercises I could just about manage, but I could never visualise what it was I was doing. I just followed the formula I'd been given. It was, and is, meaningless to me as applied to the real world.

Quote:
What do you call a mushroom that takes you out and feeds you drinks?...... A fungi to be with.
Aheh.


Slight  Thursday Apr 8 08:15 PM

I saw this Science article on /. that shows how to recreate this 6 wave pattern in the lab. I found this quote from the article quite telling about the fact that other people like @juggle5 have seen this stuff before:

Quote:
“Most planetary scientists are not aware of how ubiquitous these sorts of patterns are in fluid dynamics.” -Anna Barbosa Aguiar



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