Saturn Changing Colors

on Thursday, 17 November 2016.

Summer approaches Saturn

Unfortunately for earth bound observers, we will never see a rainbow Saturn as pictured above.  This is a false colored image that delightfully uses different  colors that indicate varying heights and compositions of cloud layers generally thought to consist of ammonia ice crystals.




In the past four years, the Cassini spacecraft has recorded changes in the color of the hexagonal cloud at the northern hemisphere of Saturn.  The cloud at the pole area is an ongoing storm of about 20,000 miles in size. The hexagon shape is thought to be the result of varying wind speeds in Saturn’s atmosphere.



Again, and unfortunately, this is not a phenomenon that is visible through earth-based telescopes but only through the eyes of Cassini.


Since 2012, the cloud has changed from a bluish hue to a goldish one as seen through the eyes of Cassini.  Scientists are studying this phenomenon have hypothesized that Saturn’s north pole is reaching its summer solstice and the change in color is a result of the seasonal changes in the atmosphere of Saturn.  


Some scientists say that the change in color in the hexagon can be attributed to the planet's changing season. The color may vary depending on the amount of sunlight that is responsible for producing aerosols in the planet's atmosphere.  "In particular, the change from a bluish color to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017," a NASA official said .


The hexagon shape that changes in color could also be a six-sided Jet Stream that prevents particles from the outside to penetrate the planet. But there aren't enough evidence or studies yet to help confirm if the theories are correct. This unusual shape with is color changes is going to be something for astronomers and scientists to figure out in the years to come.

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