Imaging scientists on Cassini have spent their summer vacations having more fun than kids at a carnival. Analyzing fantastic new results from Cassinis first season of prime ring viewing, they are announcing today some of their unexpected findings on Saturns rings, including new structures in Saturns diffuse rings, clumps and knots in the F ring – some of which may be small moons – and a completely unexpected spiral ring around the planet in the vicinity of the F ring.
The findings are illustrated in processed images and movies being released today and found at http://ciclops.org, http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini.
First in the line of new discoveries is that parts of the D ring (Saturns innermost ring) have relocated and dimmed. Images show one of the major discrete ring structures in the D ring has changed in brightness and moved inward towards Saturn by as much as 200 kilometers (124 miles). A change over the 25 years since the NASA Voyager spacecraft flybys indicates very short evolutionary lifetimes in the D ring and is of great interest to ring scientists who have been hoping that Cassini would yield information about ring ages and lifetimes.
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