Hot Cyclones Churn at Both Ends of Saturn

January 4, 2008
Hot Cyclones Churn at Both Ends of Saturn
This image shows newly discovered "hot spot" on Saturn's north pole and the mysterious hexagon that encircles the pole. Image credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC/Oxford University

Despite more than a decade of winter darkness, Saturn's north pole is home to an unexpected hot spot remarkably similar to one at the planet's sunny south pole. The source of its heat is a mystery. Now, the first detailed views of the gas giant's high latitudes from the Cassini spacecraft reveal a matched set of hot cyclonic vortices, one at each pole.

While scientists already knew about the hot spot at Saturn's south pole from previous observations by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the north pole vortex was a surprise. The researchers report their findings in the Jan. 4 issue of Science.

"We had speculated that the south pole hot spot was connected to the southern, sunlit conditions," said Glenn Orton, a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and co-investigator on Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer. "Since the north pole has been deprived of sunlight since the arrival of winter in 1995, we didn't expect to find a similar feature there."

The infrared data show that the shadowed north pole vortex shares much the same structure and temperature as the one at the sunny south pole. The cores of both show a depletion of phospine gas, an imbalance probably caused by air moving downward into the lowest part of Saturn's atmosphere, the troposphere. Both polar vortices appear to be long-lasting and intrinsic parts of Saturn and are not related to the amount of sunlight received by one pole or the other.

"The hot spots are the result of air moving polewards, being compressed and heated up as it descends over the poles into the depths of Saturn," said Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist from the University of Oxford, England, and the lead author of the Science paper. "The driving forces behind the motion, and indeed the global motion of Saturn's atmosphere, still need to be understood."

Though similar, the two polar regions differ in one striking way. At the north pole, the newly discovered vortex is framed by the distinctive, long-lived and still unexplained polar hexagon. This mysterious feature encompassing the entire north pole was first spotted in the 1980s by NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Cassini's infrared cameras also detected the hexagon in deep atmospheric clouds early in 2007.

In their paper, Fletcher and his colleagues report that the bright, warm hexagon is much higher than previous studies had shown. "It extends right to the top of the troposphere," says Fletcher. "It is associated with downward motion in the troposphere, though the cause of the hexagonal structure requires further study."

Winter lasts about 15 years on Saturn. Researchers anticipate that when the seasons change in the coming years and Saturn's north pole is once again in sunlight, they will be able to see a swirling vortex with high eye walls and dark central clouds like the one now visible at the south pole. "But Saturn may surprise us again," says Fletcher.

"The fact that Neptune shows a similar south polar hot spot whets our appetite for the strange dynamics of the poles of the other gas giants," Fletcher says.

More information about Jupiter's poles will come from NASA's Juno mission, currently scheduled for launch in 2011 and arrival in 2016.

Fletcher's research was funded by the United Kingdom's Science and Technology Facilities Council.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The science team for Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer team is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Source: NASA

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2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2008
The heating and vortex behavior is not a mystery to Plasma Cosmology, and the Electric Universe paradigm. The Birkeland currents that pervade our universe and our solar system often connect at the poles of planets. Similar hotspots have been observed on other planets as well as many moons. The jets seen on many bodies within our solar system are not the result of geothermal out gassing or novel volcanism but rather electrostatic acceleration from the surface.
2.5 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2008
k, plasma guys (assuming that it isn't just one troll with multiple accounts). I've been trying to ignore all of your posts, but on the off-chance that you are real people and not just forum trolls let me give you a bit of advice about your Plasma Cosmology ideas:).

1) You're never going to get anywhere posting stuff on forums. Seriously, even if there is something to your ideas, the very fact that you are here trolling every post means that most rational people will immediately think you are kooks.

2) Following from number one, because people are use to dealing with crazy forum trolls, and because you are trolling a forum, any idea you present will be immediately placed in the part of their mind normally reserved for dealing with Big Foot, Nessie, and Tom Cruise. You're doing more harm than good to your cause by trolling.

3) Since trolling isn't doing any good, maybe you should try another approach? Instead of creating wild websites that have no evidence supporting them, go out and do some serious research and have it peer reviewed. Not all research is expensive but it is normally time consuming. Still, on this very website we occasionally read about cool and novel 500 dollar table top experiments that do something unexpected.

One of two things will then happen. Either the reviewers will point out a flaw in your reasoning and help you correct it, or they will be forced to conclude that maybe there is something to your ideas after all. Either way, it is good for you.

But even if you fail you will at least be DOING something, and not just trolling articles and blathering out nonsense.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2008
Man, whatever, gopher.

PLEASE, BY ALL MEANS, reject any and all plasma cosmology. It is your loss and your loss alone.

Experiment after experiment after experiment has ALREADY BEEN DONE showing cosmic phenomenon in the lab. This stuff has BEEN KNOWN and has been blatantly ignored time and time again.

All you have to do is pick up a book. It's all very clear and easy to understand and relies on many precise examples. It's hardly psuedoscience, even though you (and others) want to believe it is.

So like I said, whatever. Insult us, mock us, talk down to us, do whatever you have to do to make yourself feel better about not being in the know. I'd sooner be the brother of Tom Cruise than accept and believe half the dumb shit so many people hold as an accurate picture of the cosmos today.

Hopefully these "trolls" can reach and inspire other people who's minds aren't so narrow and to go out and learn the truth for themselves. Probably not, since they're flagged down out of pure ignorance. The same ignorance that has cosmic science stalled to the point it is today.

1 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2008
you can add anthropogenic global warming to that list with Bigfoot, Nessie and Tom Cruise
4 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2008
Did I say I rejected PC earls? I said that you are silly for thinking that posting here will change anyone's minds. I said that if you want to convince people you should be out collecting evidence instead of completely wasting your lives trash talking articles written by reporters.

And I read up on PC some time ago. The currently available evidence for it is... shall we say... 'light'. Given the tiny amount of evidence collected thus far that points anywhere near PC it isn't surprising that most people don't take it seriously.

But as I said in my previous post, if you really want to help out your camp, then the best thing you can do is NOT to write scathing posts on a website, but rather to do some original research on your own. Or better yet form a group and do research. Sometimes such research pays off, and sometimes it doesn't. But science is always the better for people attempting to gather new evidence.
2.5 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2008
Well the prediction by Wallace Thornhill that Saturn would have 2 hot poles counts for something in the Plasma Universe.

We are not "trolls". Its very disheartening to see these articles that claim discoveries and mysteries, only because they are not exposed to plasma cosmology.

I work in lab. I'm ready for A Jetsons Future, not more waste and obfuscation. Aint you??

3 / 5 (2) Jan 05, 2008
Hannes Alfvén is a troll!!!!
3 / 5 (2) Jan 05, 2008
gopher69: there's a large and and intelligent community behind EU that not only carries out their own research, but interprets others data as well. Needless to say, with every new announcement, with every new discovery, and with every new event, the evidence keeps getting heavier and heavier, not that I personally think it needs any more explanation, being such the straight forward and clean cut theory it is... When you can dictate the material AND disagree with it, then I'll be impressed.

But until then, "whatever," as I said, I'll leave you to your own devices. Have fun.

Brant: Amen. As far back as Dec 08, 2006 "Saturns Monstrous Polar Storm" lol. They do it to themselves.

MRD: lol

1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2008
You are absolutely right in that these forums are not the venue to convince anyone of the merit of Plasma Cosmology and the Electric Universe.

Speaking only for myself, I am not trying to convince anyone of anything by posting on these forums. What I am doing is making others aware that alternate (arguably better)explanations exist, and have existed for well over 30 years. It is up to the reader to do their own research and make up their own minds.

There is plenty of experimental data on the subject, as well as observational support being reported on these pages every other day, as 'mysteries' or 'surprises' of current theory. These same articles are bolstering the PC and EU paradigm.
1 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2008
See also:

(Has Electrodynamics Solved the Mystery of Saturn's Dual Hotspots?)

Respectfully submited,

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