Above Saturn’s north pole, clouds swirl in a distinct and stunning hexagonal shape.
Discovered by NASA’s Voyager mission in 1981, Saturn’s hexagon is striking to behold, and one new study suggests that this six-sided vortex may actually be hundreds of kilometers tall.
After the Voyager mission pushed human exploration far out into the solar system and, subsequently, discovered Saturn’s hexagon whirling at a low altitude, the Cassini spacecraft returned to the ringed planet in 2004 and continued these observations. The spacecraft even spotted a high-altitude vortex at the planet’s south pole, but this vortex was not hexagonal.
Now, as part of a new study using Cassini data, researchers have discovered, for the first time, a high-altitude vortex forming at Saturn’s north pole. This vortex was spotted as the planet’s northern hemisphere approached summertime. And it has a hexagonal shape like the famous hexagon originally discovered closer to the planet’s surface. These findings suggest that the high-altitude vortex may be influenced by the low-altitude vortex, potentially forming an immense, tall tower, according to a statement.