Feeds

Blighty's winter storms are PUNY compared to Saturn's 200mph, 15,000 mile wide HEXACANE

NASA's Cassini probe eyes six-sided monster storm

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Pics NASA's Cassini spacecraft has delivered some insightful images of a monster storm raging at Saturn's north pole - a six sided-beast 'wider than two Earths' and within which winds reach an umbrella-shredding 350km/h.

Cassini false-colour view of the six-sided storm. Pic: NASA

In a series of false-colour snaps (animated version here), Cassini provided "a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude".

NASA explains that the storm "folds into a six-sided shape because the hexagon is a stationary wave that guides the path of the gas in the jet". Cassini imaging team member Andrew Ingersoll said: "The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable.

"A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades - and who knows - maybe centuries."

The hexacane's stability, and suspected longevity, may be down to the fact that Saturn is a gas giant, lacking the kind of solid landforms which disrupt storms on Earth.

The false-colour images have allowed scientists to "distinguish differences among the types of particles suspended in the atmosphere". Kunio Sayanagi, a Cassini imaging team associate, noted: "Inside the hexagon, there are fewer large haze particles and a concentration of small haze particles, while outside the hexagon, the opposite is true. The hexagonal jet stream is acting like a barrier, which results in something like Earth's Antarctic ozone hole."

Scientists have only recently been able to get a proper eyeful of the beast (see pics below), since the planet's north pole was in darkness when Cassini rolled up in July 2004. NASA explains: "The Sun really only began to illuminate the entire interior of the hexagon in August 2009, with the start of northern spring. In late 2012, Cassini began making swings over Saturn's poles, giving it better views of the hexagon."

Cassini image of Saturn taken on 10 October 2013. Pic: NASA

The hexagonal storm at Saturn's north pole as seen by Cassini in November 2012. Pic NASA

Although the storm's boundaries are preventing large haze particles entering the maelstrom, "large aerosol particles are created when sunlight shines on the atmosphere". Accordingly, NASA boffins are "excited" to see how this process affects the storm now Saturn's north pole is enjoying the first rays of spring sunshine. ®

Bootnote

Vulture Central's backroom gremlins reckon the top pic looks more like a security hex screwdriver bit. You can do the Googling to make the comparison.

Also, thanks to the millions who wrote in correctly pointing out that the original headline referred to Jupiter, not Saturn. Oops.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.