Fantasist & Futurist
- Nov 23, 2002
I'm finally able to put together a new news digest after a quiet run last week.
1. Saturn's towering hexgon
Remember that the planet Saturn has a giant cloud formation in the shape of a hexagon at its north pole? Well, apparently that hexagon creates a vortex that rises hundreds of kilometers above the surrounding cloud layer: Saturn's famous hexagon may tower above the clouds
The long-lived international Cassini mission has revealed a surprising feature emerging at Saturn's northern pole as it nears summertime: a warming, high-altitude vortex with a hexagonal shape, akin to the famous hexagon seen deeper down in Saturn's clouds. This suggests that the lower-altitude hexagon may influence what happens up above, and that it could be a towering structure spanning hundreds of kilometres in height.
2. Jupiter's 3rd pole
Speaking of poles, Jupiter has an odd one - or three. Bluntly, Jupiter has a huge third magnetic pole at its equator, which is baffling everyone: Juno shows Jupiter's magnetic field is very different from Earth's
While it does have flux lines emanating from its north pole, it also has two return points, rather than just one—one is located near its south pole, the other close to its equator. Also, on Earth, parts of the magnetic field do not favor either pole, and are instead spread between the two. With Jupiter, the same kinds of magnetic fields are almost all in the northern hemisphere.
The researchers note that thus far, there is no data that can explain Jupiter's odd magnetic field, but suggest it most likely has something to do with the planet's unique internal structure.
3. Moon's swirls show volcanic past
And still on the subject of magnetic fields, there's a curious feature of the Moon called Lunar Swirls that are visible with a telescope but have baffled scientists for decades. We know they are magnetic, but weren't sure why. It now turns out they may be caused by iron deposits in lava tubes under the Moon's surface: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/gorgeous-lunar-swirls-record-the-moons-ancient-magnetism
4. Lunar surface "weathered"
And keeping with the moon, have you ever wondered why the Moon sometimes has light streaks from impact craters? The suggestion is that the solar wind effectively weathers the lunar crust, and meteorite crates expose the protected surface underneath: Bright streaks on the moon are a product of space weathering
This seems like common sense, but now opens up new ways to better understand craters across the Moon.
5. "Mass wasting" keep comets turning
A comet should run out of steam once gas and ice has escaped through the surface - but comets somehow seem to keep active longer than they should. Now a team of scientists have suggested that landslides and avalanches help expose new deposits of gas and ice, allowing the comet to keep active and turning: Landslides, avalanches may be key to long-term comet activity
6. Grains of water may have seeded Earth
We know there's ice in space - we still don't know how the Earth managed to gain so much water. Now there's a suggestion that rather than relying on comets and asteroids to bring it home, it could have been already present in the billions and billions of dust grains that came together to form the Earth in the first place: Water in small dust grains can explain large amounts of water on Earth
BONUS! 10 fun funghi facts from the BBC: Ten fascinating facts about fungi