Saturn’s hexagon mega-storm | Summary and Q&A

October 5, 2020
Harvard University
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Saturn’s hexagon mega-storm

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This video explores the mysterious hexagon on Saturn's North Pole, which has captured the fascination of scientists for decades. By using computer simulations and studying the physics behind storm formations, researchers have discovered that storms on giant planets like Saturn can take on polygonal shapes, like the hexagon. The video raises questions about the origin and triggers of this hexagonal shape.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the hexagon on Saturn's North Pole?

The hexagon on Saturn's North Pole is a mysterious atmospheric feature that has intrigued scientists for many years. It appears to be a massive storm system, spanning 30,000 kilometers in width, which is large enough to contain two Earths.

Q: What makes the hexagon on Saturn unique compared to storms on Earth?

On Earth, storms typically have a spiral or circular pattern. However, the hexagon on Saturn's North Pole defies this convention, taking on a polygonal shape. This discovery has sparked interest and excitement among scientists.

Q: How did researchers study the hexagon on Saturn?

Researchers used computer simulations to understand the formation and characteristics of the hexagon on Saturn. These simulations were conducted for months on high-performance computers at Harvard's Odyssey Cluster and NASA. The simulations allowed scientists to replicate similar conditions to Saturn and observe the formation of a hexagonal storm.

Q: What did the computer simulations reveal about the hexagon?

The computer simulations showed that storms on giant planets like Saturn can indeed take on polygonal shapes, such as the hexagon. This findings suggests that storms are not limited to circular phenomena and can occur in various shapes and forms.

Q: What are scientists trying to determine about the hexagonal shape?

Scientists are eager to know what factors led to the formation of the hexagon on Saturn's North Pole. They are investigating whether there are specific triggers or if the hexagonal shape is merely a chance occurrence.

Q: What is the significance of studying the hexagon on Saturn?

By studying the hexagon on Saturn's North Pole, scientists can gain a deeper understanding of atmospheric dynamics and storm formations on giant planets. This research has the potential to broaden our knowledge of planetary weather patterns and atmospheric behavior.

Q: Are there any other planetary features similar to Saturn's hexagon?

While the hexagon on Saturn is unique in its size and formation, there have been some observations of similar polygonal shapes on other gas giants in our solar system, such as Jupiter and Neptune. This suggests that hexagonal storms might not be exclusive to Saturn.

Q: How did researchers apply basic physics to understand the hexagon?

Researchers used principles of basic physics to create computer simulations that mimicked the conditions on Saturn. By inputting similar parameters and understanding how storms form and evolve, scientists were able to replicate the hexagon's shape and behavior.

Q: How has technology aided in the study of the hexagon on Saturn?

Advances in computer technology and high-performance computing have played a crucial role in studying the hexagon on Saturn. The ability to conduct complex simulations for extended periods has allowed researchers to analyze and understand the dynamics of this unique atmospheric feature.

Q: What are the future research goals regarding the hexagon on Saturn?

Future research aims to delve deeper into the factors that triggered the hexagonal shape on Saturn. Scientists hope to determine the underlying mechanisms and atmospheric dynamics that contribute to the formation and stability of such polygonal storms.


Studying the hexagon on Saturn's North Pole has provided valuable insights into the vast and intriguing world of giant planet storms. By using computer simulations and understanding the relationship between physics and atmospheric dynamics, scientists have been able to replicate this unique hexagonal feature. Further research and analysis will help unravel the mysteries behind this captivating phenomenon and enhance our understanding of planetary weather systems.

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