Harvard scientists have figured out where the hexagonal clouds come from on Saturn. For the first time, a mysterious formation at the north pole of the planet was discovered back in the 80s. In order to find out the nature of the phenomenon, the researchers described a three-dimensional model of the atmosphere and tested it in laboratory conditions. Information about the study is published in the journal PNAS.
Research has shown that a hexagonal cloud forms a wind that penetrates deep into the atmosphere. To understand how it affects the cloud, scientists made a model of the planet to draw an analogy with a real celestial body. The created model imitates the planet’s shell and covers the external 10% of the radius of Saturn. Artificial Saturn helped to find out that latitudinal currents are formed in the outer layers of the planet’s atmosphere that change direction and resemble those that are actually observed on the planet.
At the corners of the hexagon that forms in the north of the planet, east and west winds alternate, including strong jet streams. Vortices are created between these jets on the planet model, it is thanks to them that the unusual effect of the bending of the cloud is obtained. Thus, the model of Saturn constantly surrounds a set of vortices, which compresses the cloud in the north of the planet into a polygonal shape. This same feature explains why the cloud does not lose its shape.
An unusual hexagon in the north of the planet was discovered about 40 years ago by Voyager devices. The hexagon has a diameter of about 25,000 kilometers.