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Hot spot seen on Saturn
Posted: Sat, Feb 5, 2005, 9:57 AM ET (1457 GMT)
Saturn polar hot spot (NASA/JPL) Infrared images of Saturn taken by a terrestrial telescope have turned up an unexpected, mysterious hot spot at the planet's south pole. The images, taken by the Keck 1 telescope in Hawaii, show what appears to be a warm polar vortex in the atmosphere at the south pole — the first such feature seen in any atmosphere the solar system. While sudden warming of the atmosphere at the Earth's poles has been seen, such effects are short-lived, while astronomers said they have seen evidence for this hot spot for at least two years. The abrupt nature of the hot spot — temperature increases of several degrees are seen over very short ranges of latitude — also makes this feature puzzling. Scientists said that particulates in the atmosphere near the pole, trapped there by the downwelling of dry air, could explain the warming, but they don't have enough data yet to confirm that explanation.
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