Space

April 24, 2012

Cassini spacecraft sees new objects blazing trails in Saturn ring

nasa-cassini
The constant change in Saturn's wavy, wiggly F ring is on display in this set of images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Scientists working with images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange, half-mile-sized objects punching through one of Saturn’s rings and leaving glittering trails behind them.

The results will be presented tomorrow at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria.

The penetration occurred in the outermost of Saturn’s main rings, called the F ring, which has a circumference of 550,000 miles. Scientists are calling the trails in the F ring “mini-jets.” Cassini scientists combed through 20,000 images and found 500 examples of these rogues during the seven years Cassini has been at Saturn.

“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,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Scientists have known relatively large objects can create channels, ripples and snowballs, or clumps of icy material, in the F ring. However, scientists did not know what happened to these snowballs after they were created. Some were broken up by collisions or tidal forces in their orbit around Saturn. Scientists now have evidence some of the smaller ones survived, and their differing orbits mean they go on to strike through the F ring on their own.

“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,” said Carl Murray, a Cassini imaging team member based at Queen Mary University of London, U.K. “These findings show us that the F ring region is like a bustling zoo of objects from a half-mile in size to moons like Prometheus a hundred miles in size, creating a spectacular show.”

These small objects appear to collide with the F ring at gentle speeds about 4 mph. The collisions drag glittering ice particles out of the F ring with them, leaving a trail of 20-110 miles long.

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

Saturn’s rings are comprised primarily of water ice. The chunks of ice that make up the main rings spread out 85,000 miles from the center of Saturn. Scientists believe the rings’ average thickness is approximately 30 feet.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines September 29, 2014

News: U.S. military limits warplanes used for Islamic State bombings - The U.S. is relying mostly on warplanes already positioned in the region for its air war against the Islamic State, as opposed to dispatching a major buildup of aerial forces that happened in previous campaigns.   Business: At DOD, it’s use-it-or-lose-it season - As fiscal 2014...
 
 

News Briefs September 29, 2014

Navy awards ship design grant to UNO The University of New Orleans has received a $210,000 grant from the Navy s Office of Naval Research to test information gathering and analysis techniques intended to improve warship design. The goal for warship designers is to produce a vessel that can be repurposed numerous times throughout its...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

TACP-M ties it all together

Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Lealan Buehrer Tactical air control party specialists with the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron survey an enemy-controlled landing zone before calling in close-air support Aug. 14, 20...
 

 
Air Force photograph by A1C Thomas Spangler

Nellis aggressor squadron inactivated

Air Force photograph by A1C Thomas Spangler SSgt. Justin White signals to Maj. Sam Joplin to begin taxiing a 65th Aggressor Squadron F-15 Eagle to the runway Sept. 18, 2014, at Nellis Air Force Base Nev. The roles and responsib...
 
 
Army photograph by SSgt. Mary S. Katzenberger

82nd Airborne helps commemorate 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden

Army photograph by SSgt. Mary S. Katzenberger A paratrooper assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, reflects near the grave of a British paratrooper at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2014, in the Netherlands. The...
 
 

Raytheon awarded $251 million Tomahawk missile contract

The U.S. Navy has awarded Raytheon a $251 million contract to procure Tomahawk Block IV tactical cruise missiles for fiscal year 2014 with an option for 2015. The contract calls for Raytheon to build and deliver Tomahawk Block IV cruise missiles to the U.S. Navy and U.K. Royal Navy. Raytheon will also conduct flight tests...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>