Saturn's north pole hot spot and hexagon

Saturn's north pole hot spot and hexagon


06/02/2008 2:14 pm


NASA/ JPL/ GSFC/ Oxford University


This image shows the unexpected hot spot at Saturn's north pole. Scientists were surprised to find that the north pole, despite being in winter darkness for more than a decade, is home to a hot, cyclonic vortex very similar to that found on Saturn's much sunnier south pole.

Created with data from the Cassini spacecraft's composite infrared spectrometer, this image, centred on the north pole, shows temperatures in Saturn's northern hemisphere near its 100-millibar tropopause, the top of its convective layer.

The false colour denotes temperatures from about - 200º C to about – 190º C. Latitudes are displayed from 30° north at the edges to the north pole in the centre. The hot pole is clear at the centre of the projection. The distinctive polar hexagon is also evident in the initial warm ring around the pole between 75 and 80° north.

Although there is a similar hot pole in the southern hemisphere, there is no hexagon and the atmosphere is otherwise much warmer than in the north, having been heated during Saturn's southern summer for over a decade.

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