back to article There's a world out there with a hexagon vortex over its pole packed with hydrocarbon ice crystals. That planet is Saturn

The giant hexagon-shaped storm raging atop Saturn’s North Pole is made out of frozen hydrocarbon ice suspended in seven hazy layers stacked on top of one another, according to a study published in Nature Communications on Friday. The swirling six-sided wonder, which El Reg once dubbed the hexacane, has perplexed scientists …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    The 7 mists are really 7 veils

    All will be revealed if we sit back and watch the dance.

    1. Charlie van Becelaere

      Re: The 7 mists are really 7 veils

      Now now, let's try to keep our heads, shall we?

  2. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge
    Happy

    Isn't the universe awesome?

    I like science.

    1. Tessier-Ashpool

      Re: Isn't the universe awesome?

      It certainly is. But you'd have to head out to Uranus or Neptune to find places where blocks of diamond rain several metres across plummet down through the atmosphere. Now *that* is something!

  3. Jonathan Richards 1

    Spaced!

    > not in such numbers nor as regularly spaced out

    I think I don't get spaced out regularly enough.

    1. Youngone

      Re: Spaced!

      Our Prime Minister told us we should all get spaced out, and we're having a referendum on legalising pot later this year.

      Coincidence? You be the judge.

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Future research

    The scientists hope to study any changes in the hexacane’s structure to see how it evolves over time.

    How? Cassini was allowed to burn up in Saturn's atmosphere and it's not as if we have anything else close enough to do the observations.

    BTW. acetylene is properly known as ethene.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: silly names

      The -ene in acetylene is there to confuse people. The systematic name is ethyne. Likewise diacetylene should be called buta-1,3-diyne even though there is only one sane way to interpret butadiyne.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: silly names

        Chemistry seems to have acquired the same taxonomic pedantry that botany did.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: silly names

          It is not pedantry if it's accuracy.

          2,4,6 trinitromethylbenzene might be a little harder to say than TNT (methylbenzene used to be known as toluene) but anyone with a grasp of organic chemistry naming conventions could perfectly describe the structure.

          You end up with silly long names for certain things, but that's better than randomly calling them Jeff.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: silly names

            Define accuracy.

            If I call to have my welding tank(s) "refilled"[0] and ask for acetylene, that's exactly what I'm going to get. If I were to ask for ethyne, the guy on the phone would probably tell me they don't have any. The chemist in me hates it, the welder in me asks "Who gives a fuck?" ... In this scenario, which is accurate?

            There are many words we use as names for things in the English vernacular that aren't actually accurate, and yet still describe exactly what we are talking about. The so-called "Pythagorean Theorem" comes to mind (see Plimpton 322). Likewise, the Panama Hat is made in Ecuador ... and the so-called "Hundred Years War" was actually three separate conflicts totaling about 81 years over a period of 116 years. Etc.

            [0] Exchanged, actually.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: silly names

              "Define accuracy.

              If I call to have my welding tank(s) "refilled"[0] and ask for acetylene, that's exactly what I'm going to get. If I were to ask for ethyne, the guy on the phone would probably tell me they don't have any. The chemist in me hates it, the welder in me asks "Who gives a fuck?" ... In this scenario, which is accurate?

              "

              In this scenario you are using terminology that is widely understood in the industry - acetylene is a reasonable thing to ask for (I'll wager it isn't 100% pure ethyne anyway).

              If you were asking a chemist to manufacture some for you, because... post world war 3.. whatever.

              Then knowing the actual chemical name is important - because acetylene doesn't actually describe the chemical, unless you happen to know that that chemical is called acetylene. The nomenclature of organic chem is very precise, because it has to be.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: silly names

                "unless you happen to know that that chemical is called acetylene."

                Which would be every single English speaking person on the planet who actually uses the stuff. Including chemists.

                "If you were asking a chemist to manufacture some for you, because... post world war 3.. whatever."

                Whatever indeed. I'll cross that bridge if I come to it, and not a second earlier.

                Some battles are just not worth fighting.

                1. John Robson Silver badge

                  Re: silly names

                  Of course in this particular case you should be fighting for Ethyne, not because it's accurate but because it's actually shorter than the 'nickname' of Acetylene.

                  I'd not suggest fighting hard (or even more than a cursory grunt at it occasionally), but the principle applies.

                  The accurate, and derivable, name is actually shorter and easier than the historical name - that's a pretty rare case.

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: silly names

          Not really: eth, prop, but, et. al. tell you how many carbon atoms you have and -ane, -ene, -yne tells you the ratio of hydrogen atoms to them. Together they tell you a lot about the expected properties.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: silly names

        Thanks for the correction. I can still do the maths for the alkane (CxH2x+2), alkenes(CxH2x) and alkyne(CxHx-2) chains but do mix them up when converting back from the "old" style names!

  5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    My theory

    It's the home of giant alien bees.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: My theory

      And watch out for the Saturnian Murder Hornets.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Re: My theory

      Yep, and the murder hornets live next door* on Jupiter.

      (* well, only "next door" when the planets are at their closest, of course.)

      Edit: Damn, Doctor Syntax beat me to it by seconds...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's the home of giant alien bees.

      Are these the 12 foot piranha bees?

    4. Demosthenes Locke

      Re: My theory

      No, it's a Markovian planet. The hexagon is a Well Gate. There are, however, several hexes on the Well World with giant sentient bees. One is Djukasis.

      1. Toni the terrible

        Re: My theory

        Damn Big Gate

  6. Tom 38 Silver badge

    The giant hexagon-shaped storm raging atop Saturn’s North Pole is made out of frozen hydrocarbon

    So this finally explains Trump's Space Force. Time for "Operation Enduring Saturnian Freedom"?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      "Time for "Operation Enduring Saturnian Freedom"?"

      So, how exactly do you bring democracy to a hive of giant bees ruled by an Apigarch?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Regime change followed by shipping in vast amounts of dollar bills, then leave them in the shit when the next election comes around.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If this giant nut comes undone ...

    ... will the rings fall off?

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: If this giant nut comes undone ...

      * sucks in air through teeth... *

      Well, we can get the part to tighten it back down in a month but if you want it sooner you're going to have to pay for express shipping by the million mile. .

  8. Lotaresco Silver badge
    Alien

    Meanwhile...

    "Great Twarkon!"

    "Yes Minister Fnool."

    "The earthlings are apparently unaware of our message."

    "What? What?? How can they be unaware that we have been sending them signs for thousands of years? The rings, I mean the rings are they not obvious?"

    "Obvious Great Twarkon, but the Earthlings even though they have calculated that these are ephemeral structures seem unable to draw the inference that they are therefore artificial."

    "What about the Hexagon? I mean that's obvious isn't it? Nature abhors straight lines. The existence of six of them at the North Pole must a bit of a giveaway even to the most obtuse of species."

    "Sadly not great one, they appear to be clue resistant."

    "Well if they can't detect an emergency evacuation signal they just deserve to perish."

    "Even so Great Twarkon."

  9. Captain Hogwash

    Saturn?

    Arg, surely?

  10. Demosthenes Locke

    I still suspect strongly that there's a Markovian Well World gate there. That's why the formation is hexagonal.

    That's from Jack Chalker's "Saga of the Well World". Worth a read if you're a sci-fi fan! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_World_series

    1. Toni the terrible

      And I still think it is too big for a Markovian gate, unless there is to be a universe reset and this is to scoop all of us up....

      All SF is real, somewhere

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