Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cassini sees new objects blazing trails in Saturn ring

Date:
April 24, 2012
Source:
Queen Mary, University of London
Summary:
Scientists have discovered strange half-mile-sized objects punching through parts of Saturn's F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them. These trails in the rings, which scientists are calling 'mini-jets', fill in a missing link in our understanding of the curious behaviour of the F ring.

have discovered strange half-mile-sized objects punching through parts of Saturn's F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/QMUL

Queen Mary scientists working with images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange half-mile-sized objects punching through parts of Saturn's F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them.

Related Articles


These trails in the rings, which scientists are calling 'mini-jets', fill in a missing link in our understanding of the curious behaviour of the F ring. The results were presented April 24 at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria.

Scientists have known that relatively large objects like the moon Prometheus (as long as 92 miles across) can create channels, ripples and snowballs in the F ring. But until recently they didn't know what happened to these snowballs after they were created.

Now Professor Carl Murray, Nick Attree, Nick Cooper and Gareth Williams from Queen Mary's Astronomy Unit have found evidence that some of the smaller snowballs survive, and their differing orbits mean they go on to strike through the F ring on their own.

Professor Murray's group happened to see a tiny trail in an image from 30 January 2009 and tracked it over eight hours. The long footage confirmed the small object originated in the F ring, so they went back through the Cassini image catalogue to see if the phenomenon was frequent.

"The F ring has a circumference of 550,000miles (881,000kilometers) and these mini-jets are so tiny they took quite a bit of time and serendipity to find," said Nick Attree, a Cassini imaging associate at Queen Mary. "We combed through 20,000 images and were delighted to find 500 examples of these rogues during just the seven years Cassini has been at Saturn."

The small objects appear to collide with the F ring at gentle speeds -- something on the order of about 4 mph (2 meters per second). The collisions drag glittering ice particles out of the F ring with them, leaving a trail 20 to 110 miles (40 to 180 kilometers) long.

Professor Murray commented: "I think the F ring is Saturn's weirdest ring, and these latest Cassini results go to show how the F ring is even more dynamic than we ever thought. These findings show us that the F ring region is like a bustling zoo of objects from a half mile to moons like Prometheus a hundred miles in size, creating a spectacular show," he added.

In some cases, the objects travelled in packs, creating mini-jets that looked quite exotic, like the barb of a harpoon. Other new images show grand views of the entire F ring, showing the swirls and eddies that ripple around the ring from all the different kinds of objects moving through and around it.

Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, commented: "Beyond just showing us the strange beauty of the F ring, Cassini's studies of this ring help us understand the activity that occurs when solar systems evolve out of dusty disks that are similar to, but obviously much grander than, the disk we see around Saturn. We can't wait to see what else Cassini will show us in Saturn's rings."

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is the UK sponsor of astronomy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen Mary, University of London. "Cassini sees new objects blazing trails in Saturn ring." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120424120800.htm>.
Queen Mary, University of London. (2012, April 24). Cassini sees new objects blazing trails in Saturn ring. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120424120800.htm
Queen Mary, University of London. "Cassini sees new objects blazing trails in Saturn ring." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120424120800.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