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Saturn’s hexagonal pole has changed colors

Written by Bryce Getchell | @Porkfryedbryce

While examining photographs that NASA’s Cassini spacecraft had taken of Saturn between 2012 and 2016, scientists discovered something very bizarre. The hexagonal pole of Saturn appears to have completely changed its color!

This “Hexagon” I am referring to is the name that scientists had given the enormous, six-sided jet stream that is located on Saturn’s northern pole. This jet stream is approximately 32,000 kilometers wide and has winds moving at speeds of 322km/h.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Hampton University
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Hampton University

The photographs that Cassini took for 2012 depict the Hexagon to be a bluish color, while more recent photos of this year show the Hexagon appearing with a more golden hue. Scientists are currently investigating what may have caused the change in color, and while there is currently now definite answer, they do have some theories.

One theory is that it may be caused by Saturn’s change in season. During this change there is an increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere which may attribute to the hue adjustment of the Hexagon. Other theories include changes in wind patterns, solar heating, and even a shift of Saturn’s atmospheric circulations.

The Cassini spacecraft will continue orbiting Saturn for another year, until that time researcher’s intent to continue studying new data to explain this strange change of color. You can find out more by visiting Space.com.

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