When you thought our world had sufficient doomsday issues to grapple with, Saturn went ahead and changed colours on us. Especially, Saturn’s north pole–a hexagonal vortex which Gizmodo asserts could swallow our world whole. While nobody knows for sure how Saturn’s north pole came to be this way, scientists have been monitoring its shifting hue as a result of the Cassini Imaging Team, a probe that’s been circling the world since 2004.
According to pictures beamed back from Cassini, the hexagonal pole was blue back in 2012; because then it is progressed into bright gold. While it might appear bizarre for a huge swath of a world to change colors so quickly, there was a time between 1995 and 2009 when Saturn’s north pole grew increasingly dim. This, scientists hypothesized, was a consequence of diminishing photochemical reactions (i.e., less sun touched the planet to respond with the air’s molecular components).
Now that the northern pole is tipping back toward sunlight, increasing numbers of light are igniting more of those photochemical reactions, and consequently, producing more glowing gold haze.
“The colour change is supposed to be a consequence of Saturn’s seasons. Specifically, the shift from a bluish color to a more golden color might be attributed to the higher generation of photochemical hazes in the air since the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017.”
As alarming as these colour changes might appear from our little marble, we might just be getting a much better feel for Saturn’s natural seasonal cycles–something that will take decades, maybe centuries to comprehend completely. Meanwhile, we could appreciate Saturn as the largest mood ring in our solar system.
All images via NASA.