Hot Cyclones Churn at Both Ends of Saturn

False color image of Saturn's north pole

Full image and caption Hot Cyclones Churn at Both Ends of Saturn 01.03.07

NASA, (RUSHPRNEWS) January 8, 2008 -This image shows newly discovered “hot spot” on Saturn’s north pole and the mysterious hexagon that encircles the pole. The “hot spot” appears to be related to Saturn’s dynamic weather systems, rather than to seasonal changes in the amount of sunlight at the pole.

Despite more than a decade of winter darkness, Saturn’s north pole is home to an unexpected hot spot remarkably similar to one at the planet’s sunny south pole. The source of its heat is a mystery. Now, the first detailed views of the gas giant’s high latitudes from the Cassini spacecraft reveal a matched set of hot cyclonic vortices, one at each pole.

While scientists already knew about the hot spot at Saturn’s south pole from previous observations by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the north pole vortex was a surprise. The researchers report their findings in the Jan. 4 issue of Science.

“We had speculated that the south pole hot spot was connected to the southern, sunlit conditions,” said Glenn Orton, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and co-investigator on Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer. “Since the north pole has been deprived of sunlight since the arrival of winter in 1995, we didn’t expect to find a similar feature there.”

The infrared data show that the shadowed north pole vortex shares much the same structure and temperature as the one at the sunny south pole. The cores of both show a depletion of phospine gas, an imbalance probably caused by air moving downward into the lowest part of Saturn’s atmosphere, the troposphere. Both polar vortices appear to be long-lasting and intrinsic parts of Saturn and are not related to the amount of sunlight received by one pole or the other.

“The hot spots are the result of air moving polewards, being compressed and heated up as it descends over the poles into the depths of Saturn,” said Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist from the University of Oxford, England, and the lead author of the Science paper. “The driving forces behind the motion, and indeed the global motion of Saturn’s atmosphere, still need to be understood.”

Though similar, the two polar regions differ in one striking way. At the north pole, the newly discovered vortex is framed by the distinctive, long-lived and still unexplained polar hexagon. This mysterious feature encompassing the entire north pole was first spotted in the 1980s by NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Cassini’s infrared cameras also detected the hexagon in deep atmospheric clouds early in 2007.

In their paper, Fletcher and his colleagues report that the bright, warm hexagon is much higher than previous studies had shown. “It extends right to the top of the troposphere,” says Fletcher. “It is associated with downward motion in the troposphere, though the cause of the hexagonal structure requires further study.”

Winter lasts about 15 years on Saturn. Researchers anticipate that when the seasons change in the coming years and Saturn’s north pole is once again in sunlight, they will be able to see a swirling vortex with high eye walls and dark central clouds like the one now visible at the south pole. “But Saturn may surprise us again,” says Fletcher.

“The fact that Neptune shows a similar south polar hot spot whets our appetite for the strange dynamics of the poles of the other gas giants,” Fletcher says.

More information about Jupiter’s poles will come from NASA’s Juno mission, currently scheduled for launch in 2011 and arrival in 2016.

Fletcher’s research was funded by the United Kingdom’s Science and Technology Facilities Council.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The science team for Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer team is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Rosemary Sullivant/Carolina Martinez 818-354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Microsoft Announces Offer to Acquire Fast Search & Transfer
Companies’ combined expertise, technology will help businesses capitalize on the power of enterprise search.

REDMOND, Wash., and OSLO, Norway (RUSHPRNEWS)— Jan. 8, 2008 — Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq “MSFT”) today announced that it will make an offer to acquire Fast Search & Transfer ASA (OSE: “FAST”), a leading provider of enterprise search solutions, through a cash tender offer for 19.00 Norwegian kroner (NOK) per share. This offer represents a 42 percent premium to the closing share price on Jan. 4, 2008 (the last trading day prior to this announcement), and values the fully diluted equity of FAST at 6.6 billion NOK (or approximately $1.2 billion U.S.). FAST’s board of directors has unanimously recommended that its shareholders accept the offer. In addition, shareholders representing in aggregate 37 percent of the outstanding shares, including FAST’s two largest institutional shareholders, Orkla ASA and Hermes Focus Asset Management Europe, have irrevocably undertaken to accept the offer. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of calendar year 2008.

“Enterprise search is becoming an indispensable tool to businesses of all sizes, helping people find, use and share critical business information quickly,” said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division. “Until now organizations have been forced to choose between powerful, high-end search technologies or more mainstream, infrastructure solutions. The combination of Microsoft and FAST gives customers a new choice: a single vendor with solutions that span the full range of customer needs.”

The companies possess a number of complementary strengths that advance a shared vision for helping businesses deliver information worker productivity and improved business results. FAST has a deep talent pool and is respected throughout the technology industry for its expertise in best-in-class, high-end search solutions. Microsoft offers worldwide customer reach and an extensive partner network, and is the recognized leader in business productivity with the popular Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, which combines search with best-in-class collaboration, business intelligence, portal and content management capabilities.

“This acquisition gives FAST an exciting way to spread our cutting-edge search technologies and innovations to more and more organizations across the world,” said John Lervik, CEO of FAST. “By joining Microsoft, we can benefit from the momentum behind the SharePoint business productivity platform to really empower a broader set of users through Microsoft’s strong sales and marketing network. It validates FAST’s momentum and leadership in enterprise search.”

In addition to bolstering Microsoft’s enterprise search efforts, this acquisition increases Microsoft’s research and development presence in Europe, complementing existing research teams in Cambridge, England, and Copenhagen, Denmark, with new and significant capabilities in Norway.

The offer will be subject to customary terms and conditions, including receipt of acceptances representing more than 90 percent of FAST shares and voting power on a fully diluted basis, and receipt of all necessary regulatory approvals on terms acceptable to Microsoft. The complete details of the offer, including all terms and conditions, will be contained in the offer document, which is expected to be sent to FAST shareholders during the week of Jan. 14, 2008. The offer will not be made in any jurisdiction in which the making of the offer would not be in compliance with the laws of such jurisdiction.

News Teleconference and Playback

At 10:15 a.m. PST Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008, Microsoft and FAST will hold a teleconference to discuss the acquisition. To participate, U.S. residents can dial (877) 917-3408, Norwegian residents can dial 800-18393, and those outside the U.S. and Norway can dial +1 (630) 395-0346. The passcode is 5926426. A recording of the call will be available starting one hour after its conclusion and ending Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008, at 3 a.m. PST. To access this recording, callers can dial (800) 945-5760 (U.S.) or +1 (402) 220-3547 (international).

About FAST

FAST, which was founded in 1997, creates the real-time search and business intelligence solutions that are behind the scenes at the world’s best-known companies with the most demanding information challenges. FAST’s flexible and scalable integrated technology platform and personalized portal connects users, regardless of medium, to the relevant information they need.

FAST is headquartered in Norway and is publicly traded under the ticker symbol ‘FAST’ on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The FAST Group operates globally with presence in Europe, the United States, Asia, Australia, the Americas, and the Middle East. For further information about FAST, please visit http://www.fast.no/.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass on Microsoft’s corporate information pages. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/contactpr.mspx.


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