Hexagon Hurricane

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Hexagon Hurricane

July 11, 2014

We love it when new geometrical shapes show up in nature, and this one’s a real surprise. Saturn, one of the 8 ball-shaped major planets zooming through space around our Sun, is famous for its rings, which are circles. But the spacecraft Cassini, which right now is flying in circles around Saturn, just sent back photos of a large storm raging at Saturn’s north pole – a storm shaped like a hexagon. Usually storms like our tornadoes and hurricanes swirl in circles, just like the drink swirling in your glass or the water draining from your bathtub. For some reason, this one’s a hexagon. The storm is twice as wide as our whole Earth, and has probably raged for centuries: Saturn is a ball of gas, so there’s no hard land underneath to slow storms down. Cassini will now orbit Saturn 22 times to take more photos to solve this mystery, before it falls into the center of the planet forever.

Wee ones: How many sides does a hexagon have?

Little kids: Saturn’s cool rings, which are made of chunks of ice and dust, are also home to many moons, including 53 major named ones. Earth has just 1 moon. How many more major moons does Saturn have?  Bonus: The hexagon storm is about twice as wide as Earth, which is about 8,000 miles wide. How wide is the hex storm?

Big kids: Earth itself spins pretty far from the Sun — 93 million miles! — but Saturn is about 10 times as far away. About how far from the Sun is Saturn?  Bonus: The Cassini probe took a long time to get to Saturn; it was launched 17 years ago. In what year did Cassini start flying to Saturn?