content long 11-December-2017 18:12:29

Winners Portugal

16-18 years old: The hexagon at Saturn's north pole

Authors: Gonçalo Paiva Gouveia, Pedro Miguel Carapito Ruas

THE AWE-INSPIRING ART OF SATURN Mankind has always been regarded as curious. Our untiring search for ways to relief our thirst for knowledge and awe is undeniable. In the dawn of mankind’s birth, we were able to contemplate our most intriguing surroundings. An example for this includes our early interest regarding the night sky. Among other things, this contributed to a future in which any individual could appreciate art and question any doubtful events, enjoying what nature has best to offer. As a result, today we constantly feed our eminent ambition and audacity, while walking our ancestors’ path. Because of our increasingly improved technology and science - both coexisting in cooperation - we came a long way to reach the stage we are in now. Macroscopically speaking, the first men amused themselves with the colors and forms they could see – as it happened with the geometric beehive combs. As years passed, we were able to see microscopically. In detail, this was partially made possible because of the creators of the first microscope in 1590 made by two Dutch eyeglass manufactures. Later on, mankind got the opportunity to study nanometric environments and amaze itself with the beauty, perfection and harmony of the molecules’ geometry. Inversely, we were able to look beyond the skies and learn the universe’s best treasured secrets. It was Galileo who allowed us to discover the wonders of what lies beyond our fragile atmosphere with the invention of the first telescope in 1605. Galileo might not have known but his work made the Cassini mission possible, giving us the opportunity to astound ourselves with Saturn’s major hexagon. This event clearly expands the borders to which the rules of geometry and art are confined. Each side of this six-sided jet stream is about 13.800km wide, which overcomes Earth_s diameter by far. In this massive gale made of oxygen, hydrogen and even ice, the winds flow eastward at an extraordinary speed of 360km/h, as it includes a giant-scaled storm - 25,000 km large. From 2012 to the latest Cassini missions in 2016, scientists have been studying the peculiar color change of the hexagon. Despite its actual gold-browned appearance, at first, a light blue color was to be seen in its place. Is this a relevant lead to unravel the reason for its existence and even predict when it will stop existing? This astronomical phenomenon deserves to be studied primly. The field of fluid mechanics would certainly benefit from this, as it is an important but still rather faint branch of the physic’s metaphoric tree. Commercial meteorology, optics and any potential studies of great storms would also profit from this precious human investment. It is meant for our generation to solve this mystery and learn with it. In the end, we share our ancestor’s artistic, scientific, and open-minded spirit. By combining it with today’s progressively accurate technological means, sooner or later we will reach the answer to this colossal riddle, awe ourselves with it and with many other conundrums to come.


Last Update: 19 May 2017

For further information please contact: SciTech.editorial@esa.int

Related Articles

See Also