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NASA Spots Mysterious Disruption In Saturn’s Ring

First Posted: Jun 15, 2016 06:20 AM EDT
Rings of Saturn
The full set of rings, imaged as Saturn eclipsed the Sun from the vantage of the Cassini orbiter, 1,200,000 km (746,000 mi) distant, on 19 July 2013 (brightness is exaggerated). Earth appears as a dot at 4 o'clock, between the G and E rings. NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

NASA's Cassini space probe has recently sent back some very interesting images that reveal something strange going on with Saturn's wispy, thin F ring. The photos reportedly show a noticeably visible disturbance in the planetary ring.

The F ring, incidentally, was shaped by the two shepherd moons of Saturn, namely Pandora and Prometheus. Furthermore, the two comparatively tiny moons are still hard at work sculpting the rings, making it an ongoing process. The ring is comprised of gores, strands, jets and kinks.

Scientists from NASA have speculated that the disruption noticed on Saturn's ring is not the work of Pandora, which is located quite close by. The researchers have suggested that the strange disturbance could possibly be caused by the interaction of a minuscule object embedded in the F ring itself, with the ring's core material.

Planetary scientists sometimes call such features jets. Additionally, the tiny size of the embedded object makes their detection difficult, especially at the resolution of images captured by Cassini. However, scientists suggest their presence by observing the subsequent disruptive effects, caused by the tiny objects.

The image here was captured in visible light with Cassini's narrow angle camera called the Imaging Science Subsystem on April 8, 2016. As per NASA, "the view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 105 degrees. Image scale is 8 miles (13 kilometers) per pixel".

The Cassini mission is a collaboration between NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian space agency. The mission is managed for NASA's Science Mission Directorate by the Jet Propulsion laboratory (JPL) which is a part of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. JPL has designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter and the two cameras aboard it, according to NASA. The Space Science Institute in Colorado's Boulder is the center for managing the imaging operations of Cassini.

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