Photos (Click on thumbnails below if more photos are available)
Case File Information

Pasadena, Calif. -- An odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn has captured the interest of scientists with NASA's Cassini mission.

 

NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged the feature over two decades ago. The fact that it has appeared in Cassini images indicates that it is a long-lived feature. A second hexagon, significantly darker than the brighter historical feature, is also visible in the Cassini pictures. The spacecraft's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer is the first instrument to capture the entire hexagon feature in one image.

 

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."

 

The hexagon is similar to Earth's polar vortex, which has winds blowing in a circular pattern around the polar region.  On Saturn, the vortex has a hexagonal rather than circular shape. The hexagon is nearly 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it.

 

The new images taken in thermal-infrared light show the hexagon extends much deeper down into the atmosphere than previously expected, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) below the cloud tops. A system of clouds lies within the hexagon. The clouds appear to be whipping around the hexagon like cars on a racetrack.

 

"It's amazing to see such striking differences on opposite ends of Saturn's poles," said Bob Brown, team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, University of Arizona, Tucson. "At the south pole we have what appears to be a hurricane with a giant eye, and at the north pole of Saturn we have this geometric feature, which is completely different."

 

The Saturn north pole hexagon has not been visible to Cassini's visual cameras, because it's winter in that area, so the hexagon is under the cover of the long polar night, which lasts about 15 years. The infrared mapping spectrometer can image Saturn in both daytime and nighttime conditions and see deep inside. It imaged the feature with thermal wavelengths near 5 microns (seven times the wavelength visible to the human eye) during a 12-day period beginning on Oct. 30, 2006. As winter wanes over the next two years, the feature may become visible to the visual cameras.

 

Based on the new images and more information on the depth of the feature, scientists think it is not linked to Saturn's radio emissions or to auroral activity, as once contemplated, even though Saturn's northern aurora lies nearly overhead.

 

The hexagon appears to have remained fixed with Saturn's rotation rate and axis since first glimpsed by Voyager 26 years ago. The actual rotation rate of Saturn is still uncertain.

 

"Once we understand its dynamical nature, this long-lived, deep-seated polar hexagon may give us a clue to the true rotation rate of the deep atmosphere and perhaps the interior," added Baines.

 

The hexagon images and movie, including the north polar auroras are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu .

 

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona.

 

Media contact: Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

 

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/media/cassini-20070327.html

Comments
Order by: 
Per page: 
 
  • There are no comments yet
Facebook Comments
Other Case Files By this member
The two objects appeared while my wife and I were outside watching for meteors from the Lyrids Meteor Shower on Monday night. We were feeling mildly bored as this was not the peak hour to watch, but we were had to get to bed soon.  The objects moved very rapidly across the sky from west to east in …
4 days ago
During Lyrids Meteor Shower, Lake City, United States
0
Simi Valley, California - 04-12-14 This object first appeared as a glowing light moving straight towards us at a fairly low altitude. It appeared to slow down almost straight above us as it made a slow turn toward the west. It then accelerated straight up at an incredible speed. There was absolute…
13 days ago
Simi Valley, California, Simi Valley, United States
0
MH370: Radar Detected UFO Before Jet Goes Missing; Malaysian Air Force Head Reportedly Confirms Sightings By Lou Ramon Aguila, International Business Times The search for the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues, but to no avail, mysteries still hover over the disappearance of the jet…
48 days ago
In Flight, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
0
South Dennis, Massachusetts - 04-02-14 Shape: Unknown - Duration: 20 minutes - Large "object" at tree top level over power lines emitting rays of light from many openings/windows, glowing, red & yellow. I was driving home from a friend's wake at a funeral home at 8 pm. I was talking on the pho…
23 days ago
0
Alfena, Portugal - 09-10-1990 This event remains as one of Europe's unsolved UFO cases. It began at about 8:30 AM, September 10, 1990, when the first sighting of a spherical, metallic object with legs was made. The object was either moving very slowly, or hovering in the sky at a low altitude. A g…
8628 days ago
School, Alfena, Portugal
0
Description: Above the ridgeline in the background an object shows up in my photo. I Didn’t notice until looking at the photo. There was no sound. Note: The photo was taken at low resolution so enlargement doesn’t reveal much detail. The object could be a bird.
6 days ago
Llano, CA, Llano, United States
0
Description: I discovered a flying object in this photograph I took almost 2 years ago, back in Vancouver, BC, while attending the Pacific National Exhibition fair with my family. It is very small, white in colour and its shape is lenticular. I added an edited copy of the photo, encircling the objec…
621 days ago
Pacific National Exhibition Fair, Vancouver, Canada
0
Date of Sighting: December 15, 2011Time of Sighting: 8:30 PM Local TimeLocation of Sighting: Sawtry, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (See Map) Description: I was driving home this evening down the motorway between 20:30 and 20:45 hours on Thursday, 15th December 2011. On passing the exit before mine…
862 days ago
Motorway , Sawtry, United Kingdom
0
Date of Sighting: December 24, 2011Time of Sighting: 8:30 PM CSTLocation of Sighting: Springdale, Arkansas (See Map) Description: At around 8:30 PM my wife and I observed between 7 to 8 fireball like lights in the sky. The first light was maybe a mile or so in front of the second set of three, then…
853 days ago
Outside Home, Springdale, United States
0
By Carly Rees, Sunshine Coast Daily A COMMERCIAL pilot with more than 30 years' experience has been left scratching his head over mysterious lights he saw over Caloundra on Good Friday. The pilot, who does not want to be identified, said he had never seen anything through the cockpit window that c…
6 days ago
While in flight, Caloundra , Australia
0
Case File Data
Administrator
The Black Vault Owner/Operator
Starts: August 01st, 2013 4:17 PM
Ends: August 01st, 2013 4:17 PM
Location:
Space
Pasadena, California
United States
Location
Where did this happen?Space
CountryUnited States
StateCalifornia
CityPasadena
Rate
0 votes
More Local Case Files
Table of Contents Original News Article Official NASA Caption NASA Responds to Bright Spot on Photo   Original News Article What Is The Mystery Light On Mars? Distant 'Glow' Seen In Curiosity Rover's Latest Photo A strange white speck of 'light' on a recent photograph taken by Curiosity r…
18 days ago
0
Note from The Black Vault:  The image in this case file was discovered while digging through a massive archive of "raw" photos taken from the surface of Mars.  Many scour these types of photos to see what may be on the surface of Mars. In this particular case, BlackVault User: Willease (who credits…
77 days ago
0
Bizarre UFO Spotted By Robot On Surface Of MARS By Chris Richards, The Mirror A UFO has been caught on camera - by a robot on MARS. The bizarre celestial object, which looks like a spacecraft complete with vapour trail, was photographed by an unmanned Nasa rover at work on the surface of the Red …
86 days ago
0
Sept. 14, 2012:  NASA's long-lived rover Opportunity has returned an image of the Martian surface that is puzzling researchers. Spherical objects concentrated at an outcrop called Kirkwood on the western rim of Endeavour Crater differ in several ways from iron-rich spherules nicknamed "blueberries"…
596 days ago
0
On February 14th, NASA Claims to have solved this mystery. Post your thoughts at the bottom of this page: Mars Rover Heads Uphill After Solving 'Doughnut' Riddle     Mysterious rock appears near Mars rover Opportunity An odd-looking bit of rock mysteriously appeared in front of Opportunity rov…
107 days ago
0
Surprise Ultraviolet Party in the Sky Original Caption Released with Image: Galaxies aren't the only objects filling up the view of NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer. Since its launch in 2003, the space telescope -- originally designed to observe galaxies across the universe in ultraviolet light --…
3251 days ago
0
Spirit Sol 390, 14:06:38 Local Solar - NavCam, Left What are we looking at? On Mars, there should be nothing in the sky.  However, with this particular photo, there is, what appears to be, an object in the atmosphere of Mars.  It doesn't appear on other photos taken shortly after, which rules out d…
3098 days ago
0
NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft captured these sounds of interstellar space. Voyager 1's plasma wave instrument detected the vibrations of dense interstellar plasma, or ionized gas, from October to November 2012 and April to May 2013.   The graphic shows the frequency of the waves, which indicate the …
230 days ago
0
Witnesses
Empty
Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn