Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery of a spiral ring around Saturn

29.11.2005


A team of astrophysicists from the CEA (Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique), the Université Paris 7 Denis Diderot and the CNRS in France has discovered that one of Saturn’s rings has a spiral shape and has published its results today in the American journal Science. This unusual astronomical configuration is perhaps the result of a collision with a recently formed small moon. The discovery is a great opportunity for astrophysicists who think that this ring is the only place in our solar system where astronomical bodies are still forming. The observation of this "nursery" will undoubtedly shed light on the processes of planet and moon formation in the solar system.



The rings of Saturn, discovered in 1610 by Galileo, are composed of dust and ice orbiting around the planet. Although they seem to be continuous when viewed from the Earth, these rings are composed of vast numbers of small particles, each with its own independent orbit. They range is size from a centimetre to several metres, with some objects about a kilometre in diameter. The rings have been named, in the order of their discovery from A to G. The F ring is the furthest out of Saturn’s main rings. It is situated 140 000 km from the planet and is composed of a central brilliant ring, called the "core" and of small concentric rings, called "filaments". Using the images from the Cassini probe, the astrophysicists have discovered that in reality the filaments have a unique structure, in the form of a spiral, that twists at least three times around itself. Although several other planets in the solar system have rings (Uranus, Neptune and Jupiter), this spiral ring around Saturn is a new category of rings, with no known equivalent.

How has the spiral been formed? By what mechanism? Astrophysicists think that a collision between the core of the F ring and small moon that is in the process of forming within the ring could be the cause. This small moon, by crossing the ring’s core, disrupts the spatial distribution of the particles of which it is composed. They then spread out in a circle around Saturn and as a result of the orbital dynamics, naturally roll up to form a spiral. This scenario has been confirmed by computer simulations. Several moons, observed by Cassini in the vicinity of the F ring, could be responsible for this collision although we can’t yet say for certain which one. Because of the proximity to the planet and the influence of gravitational forces, the moons that are currently forming are only about 1 to 2 km in diameter. They are then destroyed by the same tidal forces. The ring is therefore a place where small moons are continuously being formed and then destroyed. These observations confirm the calculations of theoretical models that for a long time have predicted the formation of small moons in such an unusual ring.


Astrophysicists think that these small moons are very young, being not more than a few years old, and are formed by the accretion of matter within the ring. As a comparison, the 9 planets in the solar system and their 160 moons were formed 4.5 billion years ago. The F ring of Saturn is probably therefore a sort of modern-day "nursery" for astronomical bodies that will provide astrophysicists with a better understanding of the mechanisms by which the celestial bodies in our solar system were originally formed. In 2009 the satellite Prometheus will collide with the F ring. It is very probable that new rings will then be formed as a result of this collision and these will be monitored directly by astrophysicists by means of the Cassini probe.

Pascal Newton | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cea.fr/gb/index.asp

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected
16.11.2017 | University of California - Santa Cruz

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: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>