A Wave Dynamical Interpretation of Saturn's Polar Hexagon

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Science  02 Mar 1990:
Vol. 247, Issue 4946, pp. 1061-1063
DOI: 10.1126/science.247.4946.1061


The hexagonal, pole-centered cloud feature in Saturn's northern atmosphere, as revealed in Voyager close-encounter imaging mosaics, may be interpreted as a stationary Rossby wave. The wave is embedded within a sharply peaked eastward jet (of 100 meters per second) and appears to be perturbed by at least one anticyclonic oval vortex immediately to the south. The effectively exact observational determination of the horizontal wave number and phase speed, applied to a simple model dispersion relation, suggests that the wave is vertically trapped and provides a diagnostic template for further modeling of the deep atmospheric stratification.

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