Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saturn May Be Surrounded By Undiscovered Near-Invisible Partial Rings

Date:
February 25, 2008
Source:
National Aeronautics And Space Administration
Summary:
Gaps in the soup of high energy particles near the orbits of two of Saturn's tiny moons indicate that Saturn may be surrounded by undiscovered, near-invisible partial rings. And, the larger Saturnian moons may not be the only ones contributing material to Saturn's ring system.

Several of Saturn's moons, including Methone, can be seen in this image.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Gaps in the soup of high energy particles near the orbits of two of Saturn's tiny moons indicate that Saturn may be surrounded by undiscovered, near-invisible partial rings. A paper in the February issue of the journal Icarus suggests the larger Saturnian moons may not be the only ones contributing material to Saturn's ring system.

Related Articles


A team of scientists has detected two peculiar breaks in the near-constant rain of high energy electrons that bombard Cassini when near Saturn. They made the discovery using Cassini's Low Energy Magnetospheric Measurement System, a part of the Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument. The gaping holes fall along the orbits of two newly discovered moons, Methone and Anthe. Methone, discovered by Cassini in 2004, is about 3 kilometers across (2 miles), while Anthe, discovered in Cassini images in 2007, is about 2 kilometers wide (1 mile). Both moons are located between the orbits of Mimas and Enceladus.

"These observations tell us that even Saturn's smallest moons could be a source of dust in the Saturnian system," said Elias Roussos, the paper's lead author from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany.

If the tiny moons are indeed feeding dust into the rings, Roussos says possible future detection and characterization of these rings by more Cassini sensors could provide information about the surface of the moons Methone and Anthe, which are difficult to observe due to their small size.

Moons are known to absorb high energy particles. The fact that particles are missing is sensed by Cassini in the same way there are brief moments without rain falling on the windshield when driving under a bridge. These gaps in the flow of electrons showed that something wide was absorbing the charged particles.

However, the gaps Cassini saw at Methone and Anthe are so wide, about 1,000 to 3,000 kilometers (600 to 1,900 miles) across, that they cannot be explained solely by the presence of such tiny moons. Instead, the measurements may indicate that the two moons are losing dust from their surface, building up one or more arcs of material along their orbits. Each ring arc is expected to be a few thousand kilometers wide and to comprise large dust grains or dust clumps.

"The released material may develop into ring arcs due to the gravitational 'tug of war' between Saturn's larger moons, such as Mimas," added Roussos. "A similar process has been found to take place at the arc within Saturn's G-ring."

Meteoroid impacts on Methone and Anthe are the most likely cause of the release of this material from their surfaces. The same process is thought to have formed Jupiter's faint rings at the orbits of the moons Amalthea, Thebe, Metis and Adrastea. The same situation might be happening at Saturn. In fact, rings of similar origin have also recently been detected in Cassini images along the orbits of the Saturnian moons Janus, Epimetheus and Pallene.

"What's odd is that these inferred ring arcs still remain undetected in Cassini images, while the rings at Janus, Epimetheus and Pallene orbits, thought to form under the same process, are visible," said Roussos. "This means the dust grains making up these two different classes of rings have different characteristics and sizes. However the reason behind this difference is a mystery."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Aeronautics And Space Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "Saturn May Be Surrounded By Undiscovered Near-Invisible Partial Rings." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220195614.htm>.
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. (2008, February 25). Saturn May Be Surrounded By Undiscovered Near-Invisible Partial Rings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220195614.htm
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "Saturn May Be Surrounded By Undiscovered Near-Invisible Partial Rings." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220195614.htm (accessed November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) Lunar Mission One is offering to send your digital memory (or even your DNA) to the moon to be stored for a billion years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) Serious accidents with two US commercial spacecraft within a week of each-other in October have re-ignited the debate over the place of private corporations in the exploration of space. Duration: 02:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A British-led venture called Lunar Mission One plans to send a module to the moon with keepsakes from Earth. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) tells you how to get your photos and DNA onboard. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why A Russian Object Is Being Called A 'Satellite Killer'

Why A Russian Object Is Being Called A 'Satellite Killer'

Newsy (Nov. 18, 2014) An unidentified Russian spacecraft is getting some attention, with some saying it could be for research while others say it could be a weapon. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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