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Last Post 3/20/2013 10:16 AM by  Kris Sigsbee
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3/20/2013 6:53 AM

    Louise L

    Could the sun play a role in the unique features we're seeing at both of Saturn's poles, even though Saturn is very far from the Sun?

    Kris Sigsbee

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/20/2013 10:16 AM

    Hello Louise,

    I'm not sure which unique features on Saturn's poles you are referring to. Are you referring to the vortex of swirling clouds inside a larger, hexagonal feature at Saturn's north pole? A similar vortex was also observed at Saturn's south pole. The giant rotating cloud feature at Saturn's north pole was observed by infrared cameras on Cassini during the northern hemisphere winter on Saturn, when the north pole was in darkness. Since this feature was observed in darkness and winter on Saturn lasts for 7 years, it probably is not driven by the Sun. One theory is that this feature is driven by convection due to warm upwelling from the planet's interior. Another theory is that the vortex is a permanent feature driven by Saturn's rapid rotation. Saturn is a huge, gaseous planet, but it rotates on its axis in only 10.5 hours (the Earth rotates once on its axis every 24 hours). Experiments in laboratories have shown that features like this will form in rapidly rotating fluids.


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