A bizarre, hexagon-shaped vortex has formed above Saturn’s north pole as the planet’s northern hemisphere enters summer, data from the international Cassini-Huygens mission revealed. The unusual vortex is circulating hundreds of kilometers above the clouds in the stratosphere layer of the ringed planet’s atmosphere, a new study reported.
This warm polar vortex resembles another, previously discovered hexagon formation, also located at Saturn’s north pole, but lower in the atmosphere. But how and whether these bizarre low- and high-altitude hexagons are related remains a mystery to scientists.
“Either a hexagon has spawned spontaneously and identically at two different altitudes, one lower in the clouds and one high in the stratosphere, or the hexagon is in fact a towering structure spanning a vertical range of several hundred kilometers,” Leigh Fletcher, lead author of the study and planetary scientist at the University of Leicester in England, said in a statement.