Beware the giant storm on Saturn!

LSC Space News Now

Summertime may be ending for those of us on Earth, but don't even think about heading to Saturn to enjoy a nice summer season there. You'll regret it!

Recent findings show that a massive, hexagon-shaped storm – possibly up to 180 miles tall – forms in Saturn's north pole during the summer. NASA's Cassini spacecraft first gave scientists a picture of this northern storm back in 2014. But after years of analyzing the data, scientists have found that the storm was much more enormous than previously believed.

Even though we've known about this northern vortex for a while, scientists always thought it to be lower in Saturn's atmosphere, in a layer called the troposphere. But this new data suggests that a second hexagonal storm exists as well, right above the first one, just much higher in the clouds. This means that either two identical storms formed at different heights, or that this is a 180-mile tall, 20,000-mile wide, swirling vortex of 200 mph winds. Yikes!

This isn't the first large storm scientists have observed on Saturn. We also knew about one in the south pole – which also formed during summertime on that side of the planet – except that storm was shaped like a circle.

So that leaves us with a few questions. We know that these northern and southern storms form when it is summertime on that side of the planet, but why was the northern storm a hexagon and the southern storm a circle? How did the northern storm form into a hexagon in the first place? Unfortunately, Cassini's mission ended in 2017 so scientists currently can't gather new close-up data.

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