Scientists may have figured out Saturn's giant hexagon

Saturn has a lot of strange things going on that scientists have been studying for decades now. One of the biggest mysteries that the giant ringed planet has harbored for years is the strange hexagon cloud formation over the planet's north pole. Scientists first discovered the odd cloud formation in 1988 studying images returned by NASA Voyager flybys in 1980 and 1981.

The confirmation that the odd hexagonal cloud pattern existed didn't come until Cassini passed by years later. Since then scientists have been working to figure out what cause the strange cloud pattern with lots of theories being offered up.

A newly developed model suggests a better match to the cause of the hexagon cloud formations than ever before. The computer model uses an eastward jet flowing in a curving pattern near the north pole of Saturn.

Small perturbations in the jet, as would be expected with interactions with other air currents, made the hexagonal shape seen on Saturn in the simulation.

This scenario hints that the hexagon shape on Saturn is due to shallow jets at the cloud level. Winds below the cloud level help keep the shape of the hexagon and control the rate at which it drifts. Different models that don't take deeper winds into account are unable to match the hexagonal well seen on Saturn.