A Mysterious Object Made a Tear in One of Saturn's Rings

Monday, 20 June 2016 - 5:30PM
NASA
Solar System
Monday, 20 June 2016 - 5:30PM
A Mysterious Object Made a Tear in One of Saturn's Rings
One of Saturn's rings is broken. A new image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured Saturn's most famous feature, and scientists were able to discern that there was a significant tear in the F ring caused by an as-yet-unknown object.

Saturn's Rings

The break is caused by a collision event, but not with an external object from deep space. Instead, it's an internal collision, caused by one of several objects that scientists believe are embedded in the rings at all times. 

Opening quote
"There's good evidence that there's a lot of these sized bodies in the core of the ring itself, but you can't normally see them because they're covered by the dust cloud around them," John Weiss, a ring scientist at Washington State, told Fusion. "But they're in there, and every so often move across the ring space and blow a bunch of those dust particles out. This one was traveling faster than one meter per second."
Closing quote

These dust particles are thought to be ejected by the interaction between the object and material in the ring's core. This emission is called a "jet," and Weiss postulates that they are caused by the gravitational pull of Saturn's moon, Prometheus.

Opening quote
"And maybe also Pandora. They stir up some of these bigger bodies so when they come by their orbit, the moons' gravity give them little nudges and randomizes their speed and they come crashing through the ring. It's a slow, cumulative effect that over time the moons will stir things up in the outer rings."
Closing quote
Science
Space
NASA
Solar System

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