Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UK scientists detect new ring and one, possibly two, objects at Saturn


The joint NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission is continuing to provide a fascinating insight into the Saturn system. The latest detection of one small body, possibly two, orbiting in the planet’s contorted F ring region and a ring of new material associated with Saturn’s moon Atlas, has been made by a team of UK scientists.

A small object was discovered moving near the outside edge of the F ring, interior to the orbit of Saturn’s moon Pandora. The object was first seen by Professor Carl Murray, imaging team member at Queen Mary, University of London, in images taken on June 21, 2004, just days before Cassini arrived at Saturn. “I noticed this barely detectable object skirting the outer part of the F ring. It was an incredible privilege to be the first person to spot it.” Murray’s group at Queen Mary was the first to calculate an orbit for the object.

Scientists cannot yet definitively say if the object is a moon or a temporary ‘clump’. If it is a moon, its diameter is estimated at four to five kilometres (two to three miles) and it is located 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the F ring, Saturn’s outmost ring. It is at a distance of approximately 141,000 kilometres (86,000 miles) from the centre of Saturn and within 300 kilometres (190 miles) of the orbit of the moon Pandora. The object has been provisionally named S/2004 S3.

Scientists are not sure if the new object is alone. This is because a search through other images that might capture the new object to pin down its orbit by Dr. Joseph Spitale, a planetary scientist working with team leader Dr. Carolyn Porco at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, revealed something strange. “When I went to look for additional images of this object to refine its orbit, I found that about five hours after first being sighted, it seemed to be orbiting interior to the F ring,” said Spitale. “If this is the same object then it has an orbit that crosses the F ring, which makes it a strange object.” Because of the puzzling dynamical implications of having a body which crosses the ring, the inner object sighted by Spitale is presently considered a separate object with the temporary designation S/2004 S 4.

In the process of examining the F ring region, Murray also detected a previously unknown ring, S/2004 1R, associated with Saturn’s moon, Atlas. “We knew from Voyager that the region between the main rings and the F ring was dusty but the role of the moons in this region was a mystery,” said Murray. “It was while studying the F ring in these images that I discovered the faint ring of material. My immediate hunch was that it might be associated with the orbit of one of Saturn’s moons and after some calculation I identified Atlas as the prime suspect.”

The ring is located 138,000 kilometres (86,000 miles) from the centre of Saturn in the orbit of the moon Atlas, between the A ring and the F ring. The width of the ring is estimated at 300 kilometres (190 miles). The ring was first spotted in images taken after orbit insertion on July 1, 2004. There is no way of knowing yet if it extends all the way around the planet.

“We have planned many images to search the region between the A and F rings for diffuse material and new moons, which we have long expected to be there on the basis of the peculiar behaviour of the F ring,” said Porco. “Now we have found something but, as is usual for the F ring, what we see is perplexing.”

Searches will continue for further detections of the new body or bodies seen in association with the F ring. If the two objects indeed turn out to be a single moon, it will bring the Saturn moon count to 34. The new ring adds to the growing number of narrow ringlets in orbit around Saturn. If confirmed as a moon then this will be the first UK detection of a moon since Melotte’s discovery of the outer jovian moon Pasiphae in 1908.

UK scientists are heavily involved in the mission through building instruments for both Cassini (six instruments) and Huygens (two instruments). They are also involved in operating the instruments and analyzing results.

Julia Maddock | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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: 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...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

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

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>