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California (U.S.), Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): A surprising feature emerging at Saturn's northern pole as it nears summertime has been revealed by a new long-term study using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, published Sept. 3 in Nature Communications, media reports said.
Nature Communications, an open access journal that publishes high-quality research in biology, physics, chemistry, Earth sciences, and all related area, in its new study reports the first glimpses of a northern polar vortex forming high in the atmosphere, as Saturn's northern hemisphere approached summertime.
This warm vortex sits hundreds of miles above the clouds, in the stratosphere, and reveals an unexpected surprise.
"The edges of this newly-found vortex appear to be hexagonal, precisely matching a famous and bizarre hexagonal cloud pattern we see deeper down in Saturn's atmosphere," said Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester, lead author of the new study.
This warning of the appearance of a hexagonal-shaped high-altitude vortex similar to famous hexagon seen deeper down in Saturn's clouds is suggestive of the fact that what happens above may be influenced by the lower-altitude hexagon and that it could be a towering structure hundreds of miles in height.
During Cassini's arrival at the Saturnian system in 2004, it was summer in the southern hemisphere, while northern hemisphere was in the midst of winter.
The spacecraft spied a broad, warm high-altitude vortex at Saturn's southern pole but none at the planet's northern pole.
Majority of the planet's weather, including the pre-existing north polar hexagon are hosted by the Saturn's cloud levels was discovered by NASA's Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s and has been studied for decades.
The report also pointed that the phenomenon of a long-lasting wave potentially tied to Saturn's rotation was also seen on Earth in the Polar Jet Stream.
By using instruments including its Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) and by observing the the feature in multiple wavelengths -- from the ultraviolet to the infrared -- Cassini could reveal its properties in detail.
"The mystery and extent of the hexagon continue to grow, even after Cassini's 13 years in orbit around Saturn," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist. "I look forward to seeing other new discoveries that remain to be found in the Cassini data."
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)