Atom Wave: Hex Storm (Featuring Saturn)

Atom Wave

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hex Storm (Featuring Saturn)

Headed in the bus on my way to Brooklyn Park one night, I came across a news story about a hexagonal storm on Saturn. Picking at my brain, the many possibilities.
Could it be true?
A elaborate hoax?
With Photoshop, why could it not?
I would certainly hate those people with a passion for that gag!
Not tonight, at least it doesn’t need to be. Plenty of evidence exists to show it’s no joke.
This storm was first shot two decades by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes at the planet’s north pole. Recently it was captured again by the Cassini probe using its visible and infrared mapping spectrometer.
The hexagon is very reminiscent of Earth’s polar vortex, with winds orbiting about in circles: but considerably larger. The hexagon is nearly 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across. That is nearly abundant space to fit four Earth’s inside, assuming that someone would want to. The system is also considered to sink about 60 miles or 100 kilometers below the cloud tops from infrared observations.
One promising theory for the emergence of this system is that it is a stationary Rossby Wave. In 1990 Allison, M, R.F. Beeble, and D.A Godfrey published an article stating that it could be a wave embedded in a sharply peaked eastward jet at 100 meters per second that is being perturbed by at least one anticylonic oval vortex to the south. Be aware that this theory isn’t proven, and competing theories do exist.
It is also disturbingly possible that this photo could be an optical trick. It wouldn’t be the first time and probably not the last. Remember the “face on Mars” image taken by the Viking 1 that was later attributed to poor resolution, or the famous “Man on the Moon”. The search for patterns is both simultaneously human’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. In the end the final truth has yet to be written.


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