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  Space hexagons and backwardsy forwardsJan 26, 2012 4:44 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Now what do you suppose this is?
image by NASA/JPL/University of Arizona (source)
If you said it's the 25,000-kilometer-wide hexagonal storm system at Saturn's north pole, as seen by Cassini in infrared in 2007, you'd be right! (Good work! :D) According to NASA/JPL's article on it, the storm is at least a semi-permanent feature of the gas giant, having been spotted by the Voyager spacecraft in their flybys of the planet in 1980 and 1981. The light areas are a depression that drops some 100 km into Saturn's atmosphere. Check that article for more pictures and an animated sequence of its rotation, compiled from Cassini images.
Wikipedia has a little more on the hexagonal storm:
The entire structure rotates with a period of 10h 39m 24s, the same period as that of the planet's radio emissions, which is assumed to be equal to the period of rotation of Saturn's interior. [...]
The pattern's origin is a matter of much speculation. Most astronomers believe it was caused by some standing-wave pattern in the atmosphere; but the hexagon might be a novel aurora. Polygonal shapes have been replicated in spinning buckets of fluid in a laboratory.

So yeah it's kind of a mystery, and just goes to show how little we really know of Saturn's inner workings.
I'd been kind of wondering how I was going to do a space scene in this whole ink wash thing I've been using for the comic lately, and in this case at least the answer was to go wet-on-wet and let the ink sort of run itself across the page to get some nebula-type action going. There were a few surprises but overall it seemed to work okay. When I did those sorta dark tendrils above the back end of the ship (the one with the probably exaggerated flame coming out :P) I was thinking of the Pillars of Creation, an intricate star-forming region in the Eagle Nebula captured in a rather spectacular and famous photo by Hubble in 1995.
Oh! And I don't usually do this but the sequence of this ship will be somewhat broken up so I thought I might as well give it a shot: the ship is shown here in the correct braking attitude, ie it is facing backwards, firing its main thruster to decelerate as it approaches its destination, which may be somewhere in the region of the big star on the right. I don't usually draw braking ships the correct backward way because it's kind of hard to tell which way they're going when you do that. Hm so this will just confuse the issue even more since I'm being inconsistent now. Oh well!
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