RELATED: Saturn's North Pole Hexagon Mystery Solved?
In short, we can expect a lot more stunning views from the spacecraft before it dies and observations like this one will help planetary scientists better understand the planet's atmosphere, adding more detail to what drives its beautiful hexagon.
Currently, the northern hemisphere is illuminated in sunlight, providing a wonderfully detailed photograph of the mysterious hexagon to be snapped by Cassini's wide-angle camera. Seen in near-infrared light, the central polar vortex appears as a dark circle. This vortex spins rapidly, whereas at lower latitudes, atmospheric winds slow down. This mismatch gives rise to small turbulent storms, called eddies (some of which appear in this image as dark grey circles in the lighter hexagonal banding).
NASA's Voyager missions in the early 1980s first spied the strange feature and in the decades since, scientists have been trying to work out what could be creating this strange atmospheric flow. Though work is ongoing as to how Saturn's hexagon formed and evolved, scientists hypothesize that through the turbulent nature of Saturn's atmosphere in this polar region, the atmospheric gases act like a spinning fluid. In laboratory experiments on spinning beakers with liquids inside, depending on the speed of rotation, turbulent eddies trigger the spontaneous formation of polygons. At just the right speed, a tiny version of Saturn's hexagon can form.