Discovery of a hot spot on Saturn's cold North Pole surprises scientists

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Washington, Jan 8 : Scientists have confirmed the presence of a hot spot over Saturn's North Pole, which is a startling discovery since that particular region has experienced winter darkness for over a decade.

According to a Discovery News report, this new discovery was quite unexpected because the North Pole has had no sunlight since 1995.

"We had speculated that the South Pole hot spot was connected to sunlit conditions," said Glenn Orton from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and a member of the Cassini Spacecraft science team.

"Since the North Pole has been deprived of sunlight since the arrival of winter in 1995, we didn't expect to find a similar feature there," he added.

According to Leigh Fletcher, the lead author of a paper on the findings, the most likely explanation for the hotspot on the North Pole is the compressed air moving toward both the poles and heating as it descends.

Scientists wonder if they are seeing a phenomenon common to gas giant planets since Neptune's South Pole also has a hot spot.

Further information is however, needed to completely understand Saturn's atmospheric process.

"The driving forces behind the motion, and indeed the global motion of Saturn's atmosphere, still need to be understood," claimed Fletcher.

Meanwhile, the scientists hope Cassini will still be operating in five years when the North Pole finally emerges from its winter season. They expect to find a swirling vortex with high eyewalls and dark central clouds, similar to the one found at the South Pole.

ANI

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