Saturn's Strange Hexagon-Shaped Storm is Recreated By Scientists

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 - 8:46PM
Space
Solar System
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 - 8:46PM
Saturn's Strange Hexagon-Shaped Storm is Recreated By Scientists
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
When staring at a picture of Saturn, it's easy to get so distracted by all the rings that you don't notice the bizarre hexagon-shaped winds on the top of the gas giant. 

And these unusual storms are powerful, reaching speeds of 1,100 miles per hour (1,800 kilometers per hour) as they grow to the size of Earth. In an attempt to better understand these megastorms, researchers built themselves a much tinier version of them here on Earth.



Publishing their findings in Nature Geoscience, the research team attempted to recreate the storms using a rotating pot full of water only 43 inches (110 centimeters) wide. It may be small, but it was an effective way to avoid the limitations of computer modeling and create something they could more easily dig their hands into.

According to Yakov Afanasyev, lead researcher on the study and a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, who said the following to Space.com:

Opening quote
"Very little is known about convection and vortices in the deep atmospheres of gas giants Saturn and Jupiter. Our current understanding is based on theories and quite idealized computer simulations, which do not yet approach the parameters of the real planetary atmospheres."
Closing quote


The water inside the pot was heated and spun on a rotating table in order to make it "turbulent," and the end result was that the heated water at the bottom rose upward, while the cooler surface water sank down. And sure enough, tiny vortices much like those found on Saturn began to form. 




However, there's still a lot to be learned about how the hurricane-like vortex that appears in many of these storms, and while a spinning water tank may beat a computer model in some ways, it's still difficult to recreate something as enormous as a storm on Saturn.

Ultimately, more research needs to be done, and with Cassini now out of the pictureNASA is looking into new ways to explore Saturn and its moons.
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