10 years of [XMM] Newton and the hexagon on Saturn

The European Space Agency is marking the 10th anniversary of the launch of the X-ray observatory XMM-Newton with a less than informative slide-show. Of better value, if un-embeddable, is the BBC hosted version. Meanwhile Nasa’s Cassini probe, after imaging Saturn’s northern lights, has been capturing visible-light images of the mysterious hexagon-shaped jet-stream around Saturn’s north pole – full image here. First seen by the Voyager probes in 1979, infrared images of the structure were previously captured in 2006. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.
Saturn's Hexagonal Jet Stream

Full visible-light image from Cassini of Saturn’s north pole – Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
Saturn's Hexagon Jet Stream

Infrared images acquired by Cassini over a one-hour period on Nov. 10, 2006 – Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

And the full infrared image in colour – Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

Saturn's Hexagonal Jet Stream

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  • Rory Carr

    Presumably this Newton Observarory was named in honour of the estimable Mr. Emerson whose eagle-eyed observations of our little part of the world have enlightened and inspired so many.

  • joeCanuck

    There has to be a number of forces interacting to pull this into a hexagon shape. Presumably gravity via convection, centifugal force and likely some sort of electromagnetic force.

  • Pete Baker

    Indeed, Joe.

    But it’s still mysterious how those interacting forces produce such an apparently long-lasting structure.

  • Wilde Rover

    Pete Baker,

    “But it’s still mysterious how those interacting forces produce such an apparently long-lasting structure.”

    Careful, the theists around here might interpret that as a tacit acceptance of the existence of a Watchmaker;)

    But yes, it is rather strange. Could it be something to do with fractals? ( a shot in the dark on my part)

  • joeCanuck

    Looking at it again, the “hexagon” seems to stay in the same place. That makes me suspect an artifact of the camera imaging system. Remember the whole school (1000 in my case) standing in a semicircle in the playing field and a moving camera taking a photo of everyone seeming to be in a straight line?