April 29th, 2012 13:06 EST
Blazing Mini-Jet Like Objects Create Exotic Show in the Rings of Saturn
NASA`s Cassini Spacecraft has taken photographs of what appears to be strange, half-mile-sized objects punching holes in one of Saturn`s large rings. As the object punch a hole in the rings they leave behind glittering trails that in turn creates and exotic and colorful show.
The holes are being punched in the outermost sides of Saturn`s rings which are known as the `F` ring. The `F` ring is large with an estimated circumference of about 550,000 miles. Since the `F` ring is so large the holes being punched in the ring are more than just your normal dime size hole. They are being called `mini-jets` by scientists.
Scientists have been watching Saturn over the past seven years and have compiled more than 20,000 images and out of those 20K of images have compiled over 500 examples of the mini-jets punching holes in the F ring.
"Linda Spilker, who is one of Cassini`s project scientist stated, Beyond just showing us the strange beauty of the F ring, Cassini`s studies of this ring help us understand the activity that occurs when solar systems evolve out of dusty disks that are similar to but obviously much greater than the disk we see around Saturn." (Spilker, nasa.gov, 2012)
A little tid-bit information about the rings of Saturn will give you a little better understanding of these round phenomena`s that have puzzled scientists Galileo to today`s scientists. The rings of Saturn are the largest and most extensive ring system in our solar system. They are made-up of millions and millions of small particles that consist of variables in sizes from micrometers to meters.
The many particles that range in many sizes form clumps around Saturn which in turn orbit around Saturn. These clumps that form the rings and orbit around Saturn are made-up of water ice with some contamination such has dust and other space chemicals.
The rings of Saturn were first discovered in 1610 by Galileo who saw them through a telescope but since Saturn is so far away from Earth could not really see them well enough to make out what he was looking at and what it really was.
In 1655 a Scientist by the name of Christian Huygens was the first to make out what that was surrounding Saturn and observed they were truly ring looking objects orbiting around the planet. The rings of Saturn have numerous gaps where the density of particles drops sharply which give a less thick appearance in these areas where the density of the rings drop sharply. There are two moons that are embedded in the densely populated particles sections of the rings there are other unanswered questions as to why there are other areas of the rings that are also less dense.
Scientists are still looking for answers to where the rings of Saturn may have come from. Like any mystery there are many opinions. One hypothesis was put out in 2010 by National Geographic which suggests that the rings of Saturn may be the remains of a giant moon that crashed into the planet millions of years ago. The giant moon was first stripped of its icy shell before making impact on Saturn which may explain the icy rings.
The `F` rings seems to be the main focus in the study of the rings of Saturn. Carl Murray who is a Cassini imaging team member based at the Queen Mary University of London U.K. said, "These findings show us the F ring region is like a bustling zoo of objects from a half-mile in size to moons like Prometheus a hundred miles in size, creating a spectacular show." (Murray, nasa.gov, 2012)
Whatever the `mini-jet` objects that are punching holes in the rings appear to collide with the F ring at speeds of around four-miles an hour. Each time a hole is punch in the F ring the object drags glittering ice particles out of the ring behind them which give a glowing and colorful show. The trail of glittering ice particles extends out around 20 to 110 miles in length.
As I stated above the rings are comprised and made-up of mainly water ice. The chunks of ice that are composed of in the main spread of the rings spread out to around 85,000 miles from the center of Saturn. Scientists believe that the average thicknesses of the rings are around thirty feet.
The planet Saturn and its rings have always been a mystery to science and astronomy. As NASA continues to explore new areas of our solar system and the planets within; we will continue to get a better understanding of the mysteries that we tend to just blow of has mysteries without trying to understand the how and why of them. This is what makes science so fun.
Brown, D., Cassini Spacecraft Sees New Objects Blazing Trail in Saturn Ring, (www.nasa.gov) the quotes are from this article I used in my article. Retrieved 2012.
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