Mystery solved? How Saturn's weird polar hurricanes may form

By Tereza Pultarova
February 28, 2018, 6:23:48 PM EST

Saturn hurricane

Saturn's north polar vortex and surrounding jet-stream hexagon, as seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 25, 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Scientists used a big rotating pot to simulate the atmosphere of Saturn, and they may have figured out how the gas giant's massive polar storms take shape.

With winds reaching staggering speeds of up to 1,100 mph (1,800 km/h) — in our solar system, only Neptune can be windier — and storms the size of Earth, Saturn's atmosphere has fascinated researchers ever since they got the first good looks at it via observations by NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s.

In a paper published Monday (Feb. 26) in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team of researchers used the rotating pot to better understand Saturn's atmosphere and overcome some of the limitations of more conventional methods, such as computer modeling.

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