Feeds

Cassini unravelling origins of Saturn's rings

Cosmic hoops

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The origins of some of Saturn's rings' most enigmatic features are becoming clearer, according to scientists analysing the data sent back by the Cassini space craft.

Scientists observed a bright arc of material looping around the edge of the G-ring, one of the most tenuous of all the rings around the gas giant. Researchers now believe this is a long-lived feature of the ring held in place by resonant interactions with the moon Mimas. If so, this would make it strikingly similar to the rings that encircle Neptune.

"We've known since the days of Voyager that we had Jovian-type and Uranian-type rings within the rings of Saturn," said Cassini imaging team leader Dr Carolyn Porco. Dr Porco was the first to work out the dynamics of the Neptunian arcs in Voyager observations. "Now it appears that Saturn may be home to Neptunian-type rings as well."

The researchers had thought the bright arc had formed through a series of collisons between small icy bodies orbiting in the plane of the G-ring. However, they now suspect the arc is actually the source of the G-ring, as particles break away from the arc and drift outwards.

Cassini views of Saturn’s E ring

In addition, the research team has learned more about the origins of the E-ring. It is now almost certain that this double banded ring is formed from ice erupting from geysers at the south pole of the moon Enceladus.

To form two bands of material, as shown in the picture above, the particles in the ring must orbit Saturn on inclined orbits, but with a very small range of inclinations.

More research is needed to work out exactly how the double banded structure of the E-ring comes about, but researchers say there are two main scenarios.

First, when the particles are ejected from Enceladus they are already within these restricted parameters and fall naturally into the two bands either side of the ring plane.

Alternatively, they could shoot out of the moon with all kinds of velocities, but particles that end up closer to the ring plane are knocked out of the way (gravitationally scattered) as Enceladus passes through. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.