Saturn Seems To Be Changing Colors: Here’s What Scientists Think Is Happening
This is fascinating.
We’re not the only planet that experiences seasonal changes, evidently. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took these shots of Saturn’s north pole region between 2012 and 2016, and they reveal a definite change in color.
Researchers are focusing their attention in that hexagon-shaped area, helpfully outlined below. The color change may be an effect of seasonal changes. (We don’t think there are any leaves falling in autumn, though.)
The change from a bluish color to more of a golden hue could be due to an increased production of photochemical hazes in Saturn’s atmosphere as its north pole approaches summer solstice in May of next year. And note: One of Saturn’s years is the equivalent of 29 years on Earth, so while we shuffle through four seasons each year, it may take Saturn seven Earth years to move through one season (assuming there are four seasons on Saturn).
That hexagon is really a six-sided jet stream, which acts as a barrier preventing haze particles produced outside of it from entering.
“The hexagonal jet stream is acting like a barrier, which results in something like Earth’s Antarctic ozone hole,” one Cassini team member explained back in 2013.
Notice the differences in these NASA-supplied images.
Cassini was launched back in 1997 and even has its own Twitter account.
— CassiniSaturn (@CassiniSaturn) October 21, 2016
Photo by bark