Most of us would probably agree that outer space is pretty cool, right? It’s also pretty weird. Scientists are still discovering lots of new things about our galactic neighbors. Recently, scientists found out something about Saturn (specifically, a certain hexagon that resides at its north pole) that makes this planet even weirder than it already was.
Before we get into the newest discovery about Saturn, we need to know a little bit about this planet, and why it’s already making scientists scratch their heads in confusion. We’ve known for a while that there’s a storm sitting at Saturn’s north pole; but, unlike the storms we see here on earth, the clouds of Saturn’s storm form a hexagon.
If one weird storm isn’t enough, scientists recently discovered another hexagonal vortex swirling around Saturn’s north pole. This storm, curiously, only appeared during the summer season for the northern part of the planet, and sits much higher than the first storm, reaching all the way into the stratosphere. Why do Saturn’s jet streams allow for not one, but two hexagonal storm formations?
What On Saturn Causes Not One, But Two Hexagonal Storms?
Saturn’s wind patterns, scientists speculate, interact in such a way that the hexagonal storms could be produced pretty easily. They were even able to recreate the hexagon airflows using a simple model. But the real question is, are these two storms separate? Or, as some scientists speculate, are they actually connected, forming one huge hundreds-of-kilometers-tall superstorm? A process called evanescence may be able to explain the existence of such a storm.
Evanescence: Stretching Into The Stratosphere
The existence of one enormously tall superstorm may seem unlikely, given that wind patterns tend to change with differences in altitude. Improbable, however, is not impossible. Evanescence may hold the key that some scientists are looking for. This phenomenon occurs when the strength of a wave decreases as it climbs higher, but maintains just enough strength that it could hold its pattern even into the stratosphere. So Saturn’s storms may, in fact, be just one large vortex.
What Else Can We Learn?
Unfortunately, scientists discovered Saturn’s new hexagon storm towards the end of the several-year-long mission that gathered data about the planet, so, at least for now, they can’t get any new information about the storm. While the mission may be over, however, scientists are still analyzing data and finding out new things about Saturn. One thing’s for sure: the more we learn about it, the weirder this planet seems to get!