Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

This is an incredible look at the hexagon on Saturn’s North Pole; the first visible-light picture taken of the bizarrely shaped hurricane. The storm’s eye measures in at about 1,250 miles/2,012 kilometers in diameter, making it about twenty times larger than hurricanes on Earth. They are also far more powerful as well, with clouds within the storm traveling at speeds in an upwards of 330 miles/531 kilometers per hour – about twice as powerful as the most powerful hurricanes on our home planet. All of this is contained within the peculiar hexagon shape cryptically referred to as 'the hexagon.'

Even though the Saturnian hurricane has several differences in comparison to its Earthly counterparts (such as an extremely fast rotation; its proposed multi-decade existence; and an outer wall shaped like a circle on meth) scientists are still able to gain insight into how hurricanes on Earth are generated and how they sustain themselves.

Astronomers have been waiting about nine years for this picture. When Cassini arrived at Saturn back in 2004, the northern hemisphere (and, thus the North Pole) was in the middle of Saturn’s winter. In 2009, Saturn was halfway through spring and light began to illuminate Saturn’s North Pole once again. Once Saturn was around its summer solstice, the entire hexagon lit up,  giving astronomers the chance to get a picture that will be admired for centuries to come.

See a larger image here.


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