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Thread: Honeycomb-shaped feature on Saturn

  1. #1
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    Honeycomb-shaped feature on Saturn

    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.
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    Now where did I leave that REALLY BIG socket set.

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    ... somewhere, Hoagland is lurking ...

    CJSF
    "The sun is a quagmire
    It's not made of fire
    Forget what you've been told in the past
    Electrons are free
    (Plasma!) Fourth state of matter
    Not gas, not liquid, not solid"

    -They Might Be Giants, "Why Does The Sun Really Shine?"


    lonelybirder.org

  4. #4
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    Take a look at this:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2006/0605...060515-17.html

    If you spin a bucket of water, you get a hexagon. I also seem to remember that soap bubbles form hexagons.

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    Acceleration & Gravity

    The centrifugal force on the water has been likened to gravity in artificial gravity machines (big centrifuges) and according to the equivalence principle the two are the same: So does gravity act in a likewise manner to produce hexagonal shapes?

  6. #6
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    Probably has something to do with shear like in hydraulic lifts on earth. Water gets going to fast down a slope and it gets all burbly, slows down, then re-accelrates. If you have a straight, long enough trough that is uniform, it happens at a set distance. Here the trough runs around Saturns pole and the wind speed is high. I imagine the point where the pattern repeats is just where the wing speed, higher at the equator, less at the poles, shears the gas. If you look at the picture, you'll see that every peak of the bolt has a little tsunami likewaves crashin on the beach.

    It's cool lookin though.

  7. #7
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    Back a bunch of decades ago, Mr. Wizard used to do a demonstration
    on his show by rubbing a sand-covered circular plate with a violin bow.

    He could make a number of wild geometric shapes appear by bowing
    in different ways.

    He could also do the same by stirring colored liquids in different ways
    and I'm guessing that's what you're seeing in the photo....


    ....ain't nothin' Mr. Wizard couldn't explain!!!

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    Following the bucket link above I found this reference which describes polygonal eye walls in hurricanes which I think may have some relevance:

    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/15...63-11-1294.pdf

  10. #10
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    Revival.

    This wasn't the only hexagon-on-Saturn thread, but it may be the earliest.

    See also, at least:


    There was a heap of speculation that it was some mysterious process that formed the hexagon, up to and including its being an artifact from the hands of space aliens. It sounds like Emily Lakdawalla got a Q along similar lines, to which she provided the A:

    Planetary Society Blog: Planetary Radio Q and A: Saturn's Hexagon

    Actually, the reader said more than that; they seemed to be under the bizarre impression that the Cassini team was hiding something about this odd feature of Saturn's atmosphere. Far from it; there's been quite a lot of published research on the topic. [...]
    While it may be deep, it's not mysterious. Scientists have developed computer simulations of Saturn's atmosphere that contain a jet of wind at that latitude. With just a tiny bit of turbulence introduced into the simulation, the jet quickly develops a wavy motion. How long the waves are depends upon various characteristics of the atmosphere -- density, pressure, and so on -- but because Saturn is a globe, the waves meet themselves after journeying 360 degrees around the planet. [...]
    There's nothing special about the number six; if the jet were at a different latitude, Saturn might have wound up with a pentagon or a septagon.
    It sounds like it's just another example of a fluid doing fluidic things.

    Abstract: Saturn's North Polar Hexagon Numerical Modeling Results, by Morales-Juberias, R.; Sayanagi, K. M.; Dowling, T. E.

    We show that a wavenumber six instability mode arises naturally from initially barotropic jets when seeded with weak random turbulence.
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

  11. #11
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    So that's where the honeycomb hideout is located. On Saturn. Huh...

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    There's nothing special about the number six; if the jet were at a different latitude, Saturn might have wound up with a pentagon or a septagon.
    Heptagon. Greek prefixes.

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    Interestingly (or not ;-() we get the same sort of features on Earth (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=3350) I think these are called Rayleigh-Benard convection cells. It is certainly surprising to see such large, distinct features on Saturn, but I don't think there are, say, aliens at work, or even any outré physics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Interestingly (or not ;-() we get the same sort of features on Earth (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=3350) I think these are called Rayleigh-Benard convection cells. It is certainly surprising to see such large, distinct features on Saturn, but I don't think there are, say, aliens at work, or even any outré physics.

    AAAARRRGHHH!!!! We have been invaded by the Qax!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cruithne3753 View Post
    AAAARRRGHHH!!!! We have been invaded by the Qax!
    I wonder if this will increase funding for space....the features on Saturn are being caused by alien terrorists!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I wonder if this will increase funding for space....the features on Saturn are being caused by alien terrorists!
    In case you're not familiar, the Qax are an exotic alien species in Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence books. They comprise of complex patterns of self-organising turbulence in a fluid, hexagonal convection cells are a typical feature of them.

  17. #17
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    Saturn's north pole is really very strange, I remember when Cassini sent back the first images of Saturn's north pole. It just totally blew me away!

    Eric

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    I just remembered that I still have the original image sent back from Cassini of Saturn's north pole in my database. It is most definitely a real cosmic oddity.

    Eric
    Last edited by EricFD; 2010-Feb-25 at 02:59 AM.

  19. #19
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    My apologies. Something went wrong with the first upload. Let me try this again.
    Last edited by EricFD; 2010-Feb-25 at 02:59 AM.

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    Houston....we seem to have a problem here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cruithne3753 View Post
    In case you're not familiar, the Qax are an exotic alien species in Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence books. They comprise of complex patterns of self-organising turbulence in a fluid, hexagonal convection cells are a typical feature of them.
    Weren't the Qax preceded by the Squeem?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Weren't the Qax preceded by the Squeem?
    Only because of a wormhole.

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