Cassini probe snaps pic of ice plowing through Saturn’s rings

Apr 25, 2012
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NASA's Cassini probe has been closely inspecting Saturn since 2004. The probe snapped some very interesting pictures of Saturn's famous rings recently as gigantic ice balls plowed through Saturn's F-ring. The F-ring is the outermost main ring of Saturn and is roughly 3000 km beyond the A-ring.

The gigantic F-ring has a circumference of almost 900,000 km. Cassini took a picture of a giant "snowball" that plunged through the F-ring at slow speeds of around 2 meters per second. You can clearly see in the images that as the kilometer wide snowball plunged through the F-ring, it pulled particles material out creating a dangling tag of sorts. Apparently, this phenomenon happens quite regularly.

The dangling tags, or jets as NASA calls them are somewhere between 40 and 180 km long typically. In many cases, the collisions make harpoon style barbs that are the visible in the ring. NASA believes that these giant snowballs are created by the Prometheus moon, which is 40 km wide. The moon orbits the edge of the F-ring, routinely disturbing the ring with its gravity. The gravity is thought to force small clumps of the ice together to form the larger balls that plunge into the ring.

[via BBC]


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