This week's issue of NATURE reports that old theories of Saturn's heat are seriously lacking. It has long been known that Saturn radiates 2.8 times as much heat as it receives from the Sun. This was supposed to be caused by the auroras observed at Saturn's poles. Some completely unknown process would then tranfer this heat to the equator. New calculations reveal that this process would in fact make the equator cooler!
"This unexplained energy crisis represents a major gap in our understanding of these planets' atmospheres," the authors wrote, "we need to re-examine our basic assumptions about planetary atmospheres and what causes the observed heating."
As first reported here last Summer, our Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea has located a hot spot centred within 2-3 degrees of the South Pole, most visible at 17.65 microns. The hot spot, with the hottest temperatures of the surface, is well within the auroral ring. The aurora DOES NOT cause the hot spot. A closer look by the Cassini spacecraft has revealed an immense tornado-like storm at the pole. Tornadoes on Earth result from a warmer layer of atmosphere beneath a cooler upper layer. Something within Saturn is heating the lower layers of her South Pole.
Today's Cassini photo was taken by the Visual Intrared Imaging Spectrometer. Saturn's night side glows nearly as bright as day. A singularity at Saturn's centre would explain both internal heat and the planet's magnetic field. Because Saturn’s magnetic poles coincide with her geographic poles, the hot spot of a singularity would be centred at the South Pole exactly as observed.