A multilayer haze system on Saturn’s hexagon

Posted: May 13, 2020 by oldbrew in atmosphere, hydrogen, research, solar system dynamics, waves

Saturn’s hexagon

The ever-mysterious hexagon goes under the microscope, or telescope at least.

A rich variety of meteorological phenomena takes place in the extensive hydrogen atmosphere of Saturn, a world about 10 times the size of the Earth.

They help us to better understand similar features in the Earth’s atmosphere, says Phys.org.

Among Saturn’s atmospheric phenomena is the well-known “hexagon,” an amazing wave structure that surrounds the planet’s polar region.

Discovered in 1980 by NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, it has been observed without interruption since then, despite the planet’s long, strong cycle of seasons.

A fast, narrow jet stream flows inside this gigantic planetary wave where winds reach maximum speeds of about 400 km/h. Yet, strangely enough, the wave itself remains almost static; in other words, it barely shifts with respect to the planet’s rotation.

All these properties mean that the “hexagon” is a highly attractive phenomenon for meteorologists and planet atmosphere researchers.

Cassini, which was in orbit around the planet between 2004 and 2017, took a large quantity of images from a range of distances from the planet and viewing angles.

In June 2015, its main camera obtained very high-resolution images of the planet’s limb, which are capable of resolving details of between 1 and 2 km; they captured the haze located above the clouds of the hexagonal wave.

In addition, they used many colour filters, from ultraviolet to near infrared, thus allowing researchers to study the composition of the haze. To complete this study, the researchers incorporated images produced by the Hubble Space Telescope taken 15 days later and showing the hexagon from above.

“The Cassini images have enabled us to discover that, just like a sandwich, the hexagon has a multi-layered system of at least seven mists that extend from the summit of its clouds to an altitude of more than 300 km above them,” said Professor Agustín Sánchez-Lavega, who led the study. “Other cold worlds, such as Saturn’s satellite Titan or the dwarf planet Pluto, also have layers of haze, but not in such numbers nor as regularly spaced out.”

The vertical extent of each haze layer is between approximately 7 and 18 km thick, and according to spectral analysis, they contain minute particles with radii on the order of 1 micron.

Their chemical composition is exotic owing to the low temperatures in Saturn’s atmosphere ranging between -120 degrees C and -180 degrees, they could comprise hydrocarbon ice crystallites such as acetylene, propyne, propane, diacetylene or even butane in the highest clouds.

The team also noted the regularity in the vertical distribution of the haze layers. They hypothesize that the haze layers are organized by the vertical propagation of gravity waves that produce oscillations in the density and temperature of the atmosphere, a well-known phenomenon on Earth and other planets.

The researchers raise the possibility that it could be the very dynamics of the hexagon itself and its powerful jet stream that are responsible for these gravity waves. On the Earth, researchers have observed waves of this type produced by the undulating jet stream traveling at speeds of 100 km/h from west to east in the mid-latitudes.

The phenomenon could be similar on both planets, even though the peculiarities of Saturn mean that it is the only case in the solar system. This is an aspect that remains subject to future research.

Source here.

  1. P.A.Semi says:

    Someone has modeled that this is a “natural” jet-stream wave, but if it was so, it would be on other Saturn’s pole also, if not on other planets…
    Saturn is the only planet with near-perfectly symmetric magnetic field with it’s rotation axis, which maintains it’s ring system on the equatorial plane, where is almost clear water (ice crystals) trapped in a magnetic “bottle” held by diamagnetism of water, while all other rocks escaped away…

    And I think this hexagon is an artificial magnet (or rather something hexagonal deep below it) that stabilizes Saturn’s magnetic axis and creates it’s ring… Which is supported by the fact there are often auroras above that hexagon… Could be thought of as an aureole…

    In classical astrology Saturn has negative connotation, but in reality it is a planet of Supreme Order and Perfection… (Could it be, that Perfection is diabolical? In some sense maybe, but rather it is a blunder of classical astrology to ascribe some negative effects to Saturn…)
    And if there is some artificial hexagonal magnet on Saturn’s pole, then it is there as a testimony that Someone had to place it there…

  2. tallbloke says:

    Semi: In astrological terms, Saturn is known as old father time (Cronos). The first time he returns to your birth sign, you are 30 years old, and entering the ‘serious’ part of your life. Raising a family, building a business etc. The second time he comes, he often brings a scythe with him. 60 years used to be the age people lived to, until modern advances in medicine and better standards of living. So Saturn is not so much evil, as serious, mature, and a harbinger of old age and death.

    Regarding the magnetics, it’s thought that planetary rotation might set up swirling vertical vortices of molten core material in the planet’s interior, which might naturally be quite evenly spaced. Maybe these could affect atmospheric conditions to produce the hexagon?

  3. JB says:

    “Gravity Waves.”
    They should be looking at the research of Dr Anthony Peratt.

  4. oldbrew says:

    A view of the layers in Saturn’s Hexagon. (Image credit: UPV/EHU)

  5. Stuart Brown says:

    OK, I’m a facetious so and so, I’m told so frequently. But. Right in the middle, if you blow the image up, you can just make out the black rectangle…

  6. tallbloke says:

    Looks to me like there’s a sinking vortex at the pole with some surrounding clouds casting a shadow into it.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Saturn Does the Wave in Its Atmosphere 05.07.08

    Two decades of scrutinizing Saturn are finally paying off, as scientists have discovered a wave pattern, or oscillation, in Saturn’s atmosphere only visible from Earth every 15 years.
    . . .
    The wave pattern is called an atmospheric oscillation. It ripples back and forth like a wave within Saturn’s upper atmosphere. In this region, temperatures switch from one altitude to the next in a candy cane-like, striped, hot-cold pattern. These varying temperatures force the wind in the region to keep changing direction from east to west, jumping back and forth. As a result, the entire region oscillates like a wave.


  8. gbaikie says:

    Maybe it’s a permanent magnet made of gases/plasma

  9. tom0mason says:

    To me this looks like pattern generation from chaotic movement but as explained here https://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2010/2471.html ‘Saturn’s hexagon recreated in the laboratory’ this may not be so. Maybe the pattern has evolved from a series of swirling winds …

    Aguiar and her coauthors argue that it’s not the wind speeds that are important per se; it’s the gradient in wind speeds. Where there are steep contrasts in wind speeds — adjacent parts of Saturn’s atmosphere moving at very different speeds — you can induce unstable behavior in a fluid, including waves, eddies, and swirls. That little prograde peak in wind speeds at around 78 degrees north is actually the narrowest peak on the graph, so that part of Saturn’s atmosphere contains one of the steepest wind speed gradients to be found on the whole planet — a good place to generate weird atmospheric features, including wavelike disturbances.

  10. tallbloke says:

    Harmonics setting up a regular feature is the most likely answer. Cymatics shows how this can happen.

  11. oldbrew says:

    Stability of the hexagon…

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