Thursday, March 4, 2010

Saturn's Impossible Cloud Hexagon

In the 1968 film by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, scientists detect an amazing rectangular monolith on the Moon, which beams a message toward Jupiter, which, it turns out, has a giant version of the same amazing rectangular monolith in orbit around it.

Well, something like that Jupiter movie monolith has actually been found! In the 1980s, as one of the interplanetary Voyager spacecrafts sped past Saturn, it snapped a somewhat-low-quality photo of the planet's North Pole. It seemed to show an impossible geometric shape made out of clouds -- a perfect hexagon. This is real. This is not a joke.

No one could explain it. Occasionally, if atmospheric conditions are absolutely perfect, six-sided clouds can appear in the sky, in bunches, pressing against each other, for the same reason that same-size coins laid next to one another form hexagons...

But in the Voyager pictures, scientists saw only one huge hexagon-shaped cloud, big enough to surround 4 Earths, maintaining its shape against the push of winds circling it at maybe 500 miles per hour.

It just couldn't exist, but there it was.

Over two decades later, in 2007, scientists tasked the amazing Cassini Spacecraft to fly over Saturn's North Pole, to see if the hexagon is still there.

It is...

So, clouds shaped like a perfect hexagon have been successfully resisting the impact of super-hurricane-force winds on Saturn's North Pole for over 20 years!

Cassini was tasked to Saturn's South Pole. Nothing. No hexagon.

So, the phenomenon is asymmetrical.

A closer shot of the hexagon revealed that the cloud is so ridiculously rigid that a wake of cloud eddies are forming in the bands of clouds circling around the hexagon and rubbing against it...
This seems to argue that some sort of invisible hexagon-shaped electromagnetic field is NOT responsible for the hexagon. Fields never have sharp edges -- always, edges which weaken in strength at a rate equal to the square of the distance.

At this point a scientist can't do much more than shrug his shoulders and asked, "Are we looking at MAGIC, maybe?"

No comments:

Post a Comment