Saturn's 'hexagon' jet stream captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft

The jet stream, which is a storm at the planet's north pole, has 200-miles-per-hour winds and is twice the size of the largest hurricane recorded on Earth.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Dec. 5, 2013 at 12:16 PM
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Dec. 5 (UPI) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sent back its highest-resolution color images of a six-sided jet stream called the "hexagon" circling around the planet's north pole.

This the first time astronomers have recorded the planet's north pole, and they used color filters to capture the video.

The hexagon is 20,000 miles across and has a huge storm rotating at the center with 200 mph winds. The hexagon is unique in our solar system in both its scale and duration.

"The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini team member. "A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades -- and who knows -- maybe centuries."

Scientists believe the storm has lasted this long because of the absence of any solid features to provide the friction that typically slows down such storms. The hexagon has smaller vortices rotating in the opposite direction -- the largest of these is 2,200 miles across, or almost twice the size of the largest hurricane recorded on Earth.

Researchers have been able to view the planet's north pole because the sun began to illuminate its interior in late 2012. Saturn's 2017 summer solstice will provide even better views of the hexagon.


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