Cassini movie shows blazing trails in Saturn's F-ring
New images from the Cassini spacecraft reveal rogue kilometre-sized objects punching through Saturn's F-ring as the source of 'mini-jets' seen emanating from the ring.
Saturn's narrow F-ring is already known to host a variety of dynamic features including channels, ripples and 'snowballs' that are created by the gravitational influence of nearby moon Prometheus. While some snowballs are likely broken up by collisions and tidal forces, the new images reveal five hundred separate cases where small surviving fragments punch through the F-ring, dragging icy ring particles with them.
The objects collide with the ring at low speeds of around two metres per second, resulting in 'mini-jets' that extend between 40 and 180 kilometres from the ring. In some cases the snowball impacts occur in groups, creating exotic patterns as they drag through the ring.
The new results were presented today, 24 April 2012, at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria.
Notes for editors
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations centre is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
(This article was originally published on ESA's Space Science Portal.)