Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cassini Sees Collisions Of Moonlets On Saturn's Ring

Date:
June 6, 2008
Source:
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Summary:
A team of scientists has discovered that the rapid changes in Saturn's F ring can be attributed to small moonlets causing perturbations. Their results are reported in Nature. Saturn's F ring has long been of interest to scientists as its features change on timescales from hours to years and it is probably the only location in the solar system where large scale collisions happen on a daily basis.

Saturn's F ring.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

A team of scientists led from the UK has discovered that the rapid changes in Saturn's F ring can be attributed to small moonlets causing perturbations. Their results are reported in Nature (5th June 2008). Saturn's F ring has long been of interest to scientists as its features change on timescales from hours to years and it is probably the only location in the solar system where large scale collisions happen on a daily basis. Understanding these processes helps scientists understand the early stages of planet formation.

Professor Carl Murray of Queen Mary, University of London and member of the Cassini Imaging Team led the analysis. He says "Saturn's F ring is perhaps the most unusual and dynamic ring in the solar system; it has multiple structures with features changing on a variety of timescales from hours to years."

The team used images gathered by the NASA-ESA Cassini Huygens mission. Images snapped by Cassini in 2006 and 2007 show the formation and evolution of a series of structures (called "jets" in the paper) that are the result of collisions between small nearby moonlets and the core of the F ring.

A ~5km object discovered by Cassini in 2004 (called S/2004 S 6) is the best candidate to explain some of the largest jets seen in the images.

Professor Murray adds "Previous research has noted the features in the F ring and concluded that either another moon of radius about 100km must be present and scattering the particles in the ring, or a much smaller moonlet was colliding with its constituent particles. We can now say that the moonlet is the most likely explanation and even confirm the identity of one culprit."

The F ring and all the nearby objects are being continually perturbed by encounters with the shepherding moon Prometheus and this allows the gravitational signature of the embedded objects to be detected, even when the objects themselves cannot be seen.

Dr Sébastien Charnoz of Université Paris 7 / CEA Saclay is a co-author on the paper. He says "Large scale collisions happen in Saturn's F ring almost daily -- making it a unique place to study. We can now say that these collisions are responsible for the changing features we observe there."

The Cassini images also show new features (called "fans") which result from the gravitational effect of small (~1km) satellites orbiting close to the F ring core.

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Science and Technology Facilities Council which funds UK involvement in Cassini-Huygens said "This incredibly successful mission has taught us a great deal about the solar system and the processes at work in it. Understanding how small objects move within the dust rings around Saturn gives an insight into the processes that drive planetary formation, where the proto-planet collects material in its orbit through a dust plane and carves out similar grooves and tracks."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Science and Technology Facilities Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Carl D. Murray, Kevin Beurle, Nicholas J. Cooper, Michael W. Evans, Gareth A. Williams & Sébastien Charnoz. The determination of the structure of Saturn’s F ring by nearby moonlets. Nature, 2008; 453 (7196): 739 DOI: 10.1038/nature06999

Cite This Page:

Science and Technology Facilities Council. "Cassini Sees Collisions Of Moonlets On Saturn's Ring." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080605095627.htm>.
Science and Technology Facilities Council. (2008, June 6). Cassini Sees Collisions Of Moonlets On Saturn's Ring. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080605095627.htm
Science and Technology Facilities Council. "Cassini Sees Collisions Of Moonlets On Saturn's Ring." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080605095627.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

Newsy (Sep. 27, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Michigan simulated the birth of planets and our sun to determine whether water in the solar system predates the sun. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, including the first woman cosmonaut in 17 years, blasted off on schedule Friday. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Newsy (Sep. 25, 2014) — Scientists have discovered traces of water in the atmosphere of a distant, Neptune-sized planet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: US-Russian Crew Lifts Off for Space Station

Raw: US-Russian Crew Lifts Off for Space Station

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) — A U.S.-Russian space crew has blasted off successfully for the International Space Station. The Russian Soyuz-TMA14M spacecraft lifted off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
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