Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saturn's Rings Show Evidence Of A Modern-Day Collision

Date:
October 13, 2006
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have spied a new, continuously changing feature that provides circumstantial evidence that a comet or asteroid recently collided with Saturn's innermost ring, the faint D ring.

Saturn's D ring--the innermost of the planet's rings--sports an intriguing structure that appears to be a wavy, or "vertically corrugated," spiral.
Credit: Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have spied a new, continuously changing feature that provides circumstantial evidence that a comet or asteroid recently collided with Saturn's innermost ring, the faint D ring.

Imaging scientists see a structure in the outer part of the D ring that looks like a series of bright ringlets with a regularly spaced interval of about 30 kilometers (19 miles). An observation made by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 also saw a periodic structure in the outer D ring, but its interval was then 60 kilometers (37 miles). Unlike many features in the ring system that have not changed over the last few decades, the interval of this pattern has been decreasing over time.

These findings are being presented today at the Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Pasadena, Calif. Images are available at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini , http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://ciclops.org .

"This structure in the D ring reminds us that Saturn's rings are not eternal, but instead are active, dynamical systems, which can change and evolve," said Dr. Matt Hedman, Cassini imaging team associate at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

When Cassini researchers viewed the D ring along a line of sight nearly parallel to the ringplane, they observed a pattern of brightness reversals: a part of the ring that appears bright on the far side of the rings appeared dark on the near side of the rings, and vice versa.

This phenomenon would occur if the region contains a sheet of fine material that is vertically corrugated, like a tin roof. In this case, variations in brightness would correspond to changing slopes in the rippled ring material.

Both the changes over time and the "corrugated" structure of this region could be explained by a collision of a comet or meteoroid into the D ring, which then kicked out a cloud of fine particles. This cloud might have inherited some of the tilt of the colliding object's path as it slammed into the rings. An alternate explanation could be that the object struck an already inclined moonlet, shattering it to bits and leaving its debris in an inclined orbit.

In either case, the researchers speculate the aftermath of such a collision would be a ring slightly tilted relative to Saturn's equatorial plane. Over a period of time, as the inclined orbits of the ring particles evolve, this flat sheet of material would become a corrugated spiral that appears to wind up like a spring over time, which is what was observed.

Based on observations between 1995 and 2006, scientists reconstructed a timeline and estimated that the collision occurred in 1984.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 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 and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Saturn's Rings Show Evidence Of A Modern-Day Collision." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061012091535.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2006, October 13). Saturn's Rings Show Evidence Of A Modern-Day Collision. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061012091535.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Saturn's Rings Show Evidence Of A Modern-Day Collision." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061012091535.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, took place early Tuesday morning with the Americas getting the best glimpse. Duration: 1:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) New research says the urea from urine could be recycled for fuel. Urea is filtered out of wastewater when making drinking water. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins