content long 21-October-2017 21:31:39

Winners France

13-15 years old: The hexagon at Saturn's north pole

Authors: Beltrami Valentine, Brégeon Eva, Dornbierer Astrid

Saturn's hexagon is a persisting hexagonal cloud pattern around the north pole of Saturn, which is located at about 78°N. We have chosen target 3 because we think it is the most interesting subject like Elise Kowalski says in the video.

Target 3 is really interesting and full of mysteries and question to solve. We need answers to all these questions because understanding Saturn's hexagon can help understand the Universe. We notice also that the hexagonal cloud was persisting. Why is it persisting and what makes it persist? This strange cloud is really out of the ordinary as there is one on the North Pole but not on the South Pole. It is another really interesting question that would be nice to solve.

Moreover, Saturn's hexagon has an incredible and really interesting shape. Nowhere else on Milky Way's planets, we can see something like that. We wonder why there is this type of shape and why it is so rare. On Saturn, many storms and hurricanes can be observed. We have the same incredible events on Earth. Those events are fascinating to study. Likewise, it's important to know more about that. We are sure of one thing, on Saturn the hurricane’s eye is about fifty times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Maybe, if we observe those events with a bigger scale, we would learn new things about it. We might also discover how this phenomenon happens on other planets and if it is different. Many mysterious things occur on Saturn. For instance, its vortices spin clockwise while hexagons and hurricanes spin counterclockwise. We still have many things to discover from this wonderful place.

A year on Saturn equals to 29 Earth years, thus we have not been able to observe the hexagon through a year yet. Furthermore, until 2009 we could not see the entire hexagon as in 2004 it was winter on Saturn’s North Pole. The hexagon finally revealed itself on August 2009 during Saturn North pole’s equinox spring, though we know that it has been here for decades, since the first images of the hexagon were taken by the Voyager in the early 1980s. But perhaps it has been here long before we were.

The Voyager also showed images of a large dark spot outside of the hexagon but it soon disappeared into the “long winter polar night “. The spot reappeared again in 2006 and images depict another large dark spot inside the hexagon. In late 2012, the sun has made its way through the hexagon which allowed us to have a better view of it. The inside of the hexagon is said to be darker than the outside.

It is believed that the stability of the hexagon would have something to do with the lack of solid forms on Saturn. Indeed, it is a giant ball of gas.

New images taken by Cassini’s spacecraft VIMS (visual and infrared mapping spectrometer) would be good as the last images have recently been taken in visible light with the spacecraft’s wide-angle camera in 2009.

We obviously need several years to really find out what is happening on Saturn, not only would it be ashamed not to know about the causes of those phenomena, like what is so different about the south for it, not to have a hexagon as well but it will also be a waste of money.

All those arguments and questions jostled in our mind when we thought about Target 3 thus we have chosen the one about the hexagonal cloud. We would like Cassini to explore this phenomena a bit longer and deliver all Target 3's secrets. We hope you will choose that target and we thank you for taking the time to read our essay.

 


Last Update: 19 May 2017

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

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