Feeds

Astronomers ID Saturn's newest ring

Stunning snaps, Cassini style

Seven Steps to Software Security

Saturn has another, very diffuse, outer ring identified by astronomers working on the Cassini imaging data at NASA's JPL laboratory and the Space Science Institute in Boulder.

The ring showed up in a photograph taken on 17 September, in what scientists are calling a "one of a kind" observation.

Cassini's cameras can't look towards the sun, except during so-called occulations, when the planet passes between the sun and the spacecraft. These occultations generally only last for around an hour, leaving little time for observation work. But on 17 September, Cassini found itself flying in Saturn's shadow for 12 hours.

Newly discovered ring around Saturn

Backlit, saturn's rings look entirely different. In the same way that a car windscreen suddenly looks very dusty when one is driving towards the sun, new features of the rings show up in the diffracted sunlight.

The newly identified ring is very diffuse and shares its orbit with the moons Janus and Epimetheus, just inside the E and G rings. Scientists say they were surprised to discover such a well defined ring in this region, although they had expected meteoric collisions with the two moons might throw dust into the main planet's orbit.

The occultation also gave the team time to study the E ring in more detail. The images sent back show the moon Enceladus moving through the ring, leaving wispy projections in its wake. The research team suspects these are left by tiny ice particles that erupt from the geysers at the moon's south pole as they enter the E ring.

The occlusion also allowed researchers to point the cameras back at Earth. The image they recorded is the first colour picture of Earth taken from the outer solar system since the Voyager 1 mission.

"Nothing has greater power to alter our perspective of ourselves and our place in the cosmos than these images of Earth we collect from faraway places like Saturn," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder.

"In the end, the ever-widening view of our own little planet against the immensity of space is perhaps the greatest legacy of all our interplanetary travels."

You can check out more of the images here. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Vote now for LOHAN's stirring mission patch motto
Does the shed actually know no bounds, or what?
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.