Saturn’s six-sided cloud pattern gets a close look | Science News


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Saturn’s six-sided cloud pattern gets a close look

New images show particles in the planet’s hexagonally shaped jet stream

5:16pm, December 6, 2013

SUPER SWIRL  A sharp boundary defines the six-sided cloud pattern that spans about 30,000 kilometers across Saturn’s north pole, as seen in this new false-color image from the Cassini spacecraft.

Saturn’s strange six-sided cloud pattern has gotten its day in the sun.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped the highest-resolution images to date of the planet’s hexagonal jet stream, which fuels swirling, cloudy storms at the planet’s north pole. Because of recent changes in Saturn’s tilt that allowed the sun to shine on the region, astronomers were able to get a better view and understanding of the roughly 30,000-kilometer-wide cloud structure.

Using colored filters, the Cassini team identified large particles, shown in pink, swirling in the planet’s lower atmosphere. Large particles at higher altitudes appear green, and tiny particles higher in the atmosphere appear blue. Those tiny particles define the sharp boundary of the hexagonal jet stream.

While the geometric shape of Saturn’s jet stream seems odd, its existence is not. Earth’s jet stream also forms cloud swirls around the North Pole. However, “Earth is

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