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 DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor
24.04.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Warm winds: New insight into what weakens Antarctic ice shelves

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>