Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cassini sees collisions of moonlets on Saturn’s ring

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.”

Paper title: "The determination of the structure of Saturn's F ring by nearby moonlets"

Carl D. Murray, Kevin Beurle, Nicholas J. Cooper, Michael W. Evans, Gareth A. Williams & Sébastien Charnoz


Images showing the F ring
Credit NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Julia Maddock | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

3-D-printed structures shrink when heated

26.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

First results of NSTX-U research operations

26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>