Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Saturn's Hexagonal Crown
Something funny's happening on Saturn.
NASA's Cassini mission has photographed a hexagonal shape on the enormous planet's north pole.
The hexagon is about 15,000 miles across, or big enough to contain four Earth-size spheres.
Why a hexagon with almost equal length lines? Not because there are intelligent aliens there. Saturn is a very interesting — but cold — place with no surface. Just different densities of raining gases, with metallic hydrogen at the very center.
Bees make honeycombs composed of hexagonal cells. Hexagons fit together seamlessly with no wasted space. So shape is most efficient for, say, tiling a floor.
Saturn has just one hexagon. Why not a circular polar vortex like Earth's? It's not coincidental. The chemistry, winds, gravity and other factor favor formation of a hexagon.
Either that or the planet is home to enormous bees.