In our ongoing salute to the International Year of Astronomy, we thought we’d mention one of our favorite mysteries from this solar system: The hexagon of Saturn!
Yes, every grade school kid knows about the pretty rings of Saturn, but less people are familiar with this odd formation at the northern pole of the planet. Originally discovered in 1979 by Voyager and then confirmed to still be in the same location by the Cassini probe in 2006, it appears to be a perfectly geometrical and enormous swirling cloud vortex — sixty miles high with six clearly defined and even sides!
There has been some debate as to exactly how it’s formed, why it’s in the same spot and how it could have such straight edges. Of course, there are some who think it’s the portal to another dimension or a sign from extraterrestrial life. Most likely, it’s just a natural formation caused by planetary oscillation.
Still, something that big and symmetrical just spontaneously forming on its own is just plain weird.
Here’s a little NASA-produced clip about it that I saw recently.
Oh, and if all this plus the rings isn’t enough to convince you that Saturn may be the oddest place in the solar system — apparently, it even sounds freaking spooky!
While researching this post, I also came across this .wav file — a recording by the Cassini probe of radio emissions from Saturn. Warning: Don’t listen to this by yourself in a dark room. Seriously, if NASA is calling it “eerie,” then it’s actually quite spooky.
Saturn: One damned weird planet!