Feeds

Prometheus guilty of remote ring disruption

Blames gravity

The next step in data security

Saturn's F-ring is being twisted into its contorted shape by the gravitational effect of the moon Prometheus. The F-ring is riddled with unusual structures and distortions, like knots, kinks and clumps, but now astronomers have shown how some of these effects can be explained by the gravity of the small moon.

Prometheus creates a gore in the ring once every 14.7 hours. Image: Ciclops

Prometheus orbits just inside the F-ring. Although it never actually intersects with the ring, its eccentric orbit means that it approaches the ring every 15 hours or so and its gravitational effects create a gore in the ring each time.

Writing in the journal Nature the Cassini imaging team describes developing a computer model of how the moon might cause the patterns.

In the model, as the moon recedes from the ring, it drags strands of particles behind it. The particles never actually escape the ring, but instead spring back and forth across the ring, carving a dark channel that becomes visible about one orbital period later.

The model results in dark channels and drape-like structures in the ring, as can be seen in the image of the real F-ring above.

Dr. Carl Murray from Queen Mary, University of London, lead author of the paper explains that Prometheus was always considered the most likely culprit for changing the ring like this. What the model does is provide a "plausible mechanism" by which it creates the channels and streamers "and a variety of other phenomena can all be understood in terms of the simple gravitational effect of a satellite on ring particles", he says.

Over the next four years, Prometheus' orbit is expected to take it deeper into the F-ring, and the Cassini team says it is looking forward to seeing what effect this will have. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.