Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Most Remarkable Phenomena

Today's "Astronomy Picture of the Day" is another shot of  Saturn's North Pole and its bizarre cloud pattern in great detail, an image taken by the Saturn-orbiting  Cassini spacecraft.

The hexagon pattern in the clouds of Saturn's north Pole.
(click on to enlarge) 
First photographed over twenty years ago, this incredible cloud formation has not dissipated or changed in any significant manner since it was first discovered. The hexagon is large enough to put four earths inside it side by side.

To me, it looks almost as if the hexagon itself rises well above the regular cloud surface, but I suppose that's just a optical illusion  since the darker portion in the rear looks to be as flat as everything else.

No one has a clue as to how this cloud pattern was formed, how long its been around, or how much longer it will remain. Some may try to explain them as clouds produced by an atmospheric phenomenon known as "closed Rayleigh-Binard convection cells." That's a theory that's trying to explain some  partially hexagon-shaped clouds on earth, but on a scale many  magnitudes smaller.

Regardless, it has to be one of the most unusual structures in the solar system.

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