With Saturn being the topic of this week's discussion at the Hennessey Public Library, I think it would be a good day to talk about the ringed-planet.
But let's narrow it down. I want to talk about something specific when it comes to Saturn.
So we all know that Saturn's atmospheric structure is pretty similar to Jupiter's. It's got bands of clouds that whip around the planet at incredible speeds, driven by winds at more than 1,000 miles per hour. That's tremendously fast. Remember, the fastest wind speeds on Earth have been clocked at only about 250 miles per hour.
Perhaps it is these very fantastic wind speeds that drive a strange feature on Saturn's north pole. Rather than a circular shape of clouds surrounding the pole, Saturn's has a hexagon-shaped feature immediately surrounding the region.
According to NASA, wind speeds here are around 200 mph (the 1,000 mph winds are located near the equator of the planet). The feature is one-of-a-kind — not even Jupiter, the King of Planets, sports the strange feature.
It's reasonable to believe that this is some sort of storm. Imagine living on or near the north pole of Saturn and being forever entrenched in a never-ending storm. That's probably the stuff of nightmares.
Like Jupiter, Saturn does have storms of its own. But Jupiter's atmosphere is more colorful and vibrant than its neighbor, so the storms are more pronounced. There is no Great Red Spot on Saturn, though, I suppose, it could have had a Great Gold Spot in the past.
In many ways, Jupiter and Saturn are the most fascinating objects in the solar system because they're kind of mini solar systems, in a way. There's so much to analyze: enormous moons, several of which are perhaps life-bearing worlds; magnificent rings; swirling storms.
Despite the fairly recent Cassini mission and the upcoming Dragonfly mission to Titan, the planet Saturn, and its mysterious north-pole vortex, definitely deserves a fresh look.