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Published:April 28th, 2013 17:49 EST
NASA Says Meteoroids Colliding With Saturn's Rings

NASA Says Meteoroids Colliding With Saturn's Rings

By Ron G Anselm

"Saturn has always been the sort of red headed step child planet that has always fascinated scientist with it out rings of beauty and its inner planetary boldness." (Anselm, R.)

NASA`s Cassini spacecraft has been traveling around our universe for the past few months studying and finding out any information it can about planets, meteorites, asteroids, and anything that lurks in the corners of space and has discovered that small meteoroids have been breaking up into small pieces and crashing into the rings of Saturn making the rings sort of a spider web in catching any space junk that may dare to try to get by those large and colorful rings that light up the night of space.

YOU wouldn`t think so but being able to study and observe the impact rate as they occur gives scientists valuable information on how the different planetary systems within our solar system were formed. The rings of Saturn are the only locations where scientists and amateur astronomers besides Earth, the moon and Jupiter where scientists have been able to gather this type of information.

Our planetary system has always been the target for the many small and speeding objects that zoom in and out of every crevice of space like those objects were little mice zooming in and out of a maze and the types of meteoroids that have pummeled Saturn have ranged from about one-half inch in size to several yards long and wide.

The colorful rings of Saturn have always acted like a magnet to attract any and everything that fly`s by them.  Those same rings also have been a detector to the interior structure of the planet itself and the orbits of its moon which has always boggled scientists as to the why " phase of science and astronomy.

Recently, a subtle corrugation of ripples that extend 12,000 miles across the innermost rings of Saturn`s reveals the evidence of a very large meteoroid impact estimated by NASA to have occurred somewhere around 1983.

Linda Spilker who is a Project Scientist on the NASA Cassini project commented on this by saying, "These new results imply the current-day impact rates for small particles at Saturn are about the same as those at Earth-- two very different neighborhoods in our solar system, and this is exciting to see. It took Saturn`s rings acting like a giant meteoroid detector -- 100 times the surface area of the Earth -- and Cassini`s long-term tour of the Saturn system to address this question." (Spilker, L.)

Scientists have also studied the impacts of meteoroids on the rings of Saturn during what is known as the Saturnian Equinox during the summer of 2009. With the very shallow angle of the sun on the rings made the clouds of debris look bright against the darkened rings thus almost like highlighting each impact. The Cassini spacecraft uses the state-of-the art technology in imaging so that technology was able to give some clear and premise imaging of this occurring.

Matt Tiscareno who is the lead author of the paper and a Cassini participating scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York commented on this, "We knew these little impacts were constantly occurring, but we didn`t know how big or how frequent they might be, and we didn`t necessarily expect them to take the form of spectacular shearing clouds. The sunlight shining edge-on to the rings at the Saturnian equinox acted like an anti-cloaking device, so these usually invisible features became plain to see." (Tiscareno, M.)

If you think of how the meteoroids break up when impacting the rings of Saturn is in the same sequence of how a machine e would work, sort of in a step by step operation. Scientist believe that once the meteoroids which are probably larger in size break up creating smaller and slower pieces once the initial impact with the rings occur. The smaller and slower pieces of the broken meteoroids then enter the orbit around Saturn.

The smaller pieces that are now floating around the orbit of Saturn are then known as secondary meteoroids which now kick up the clouds as they move around Saturn. The clouds these meteoroids form soon are pulled into diagonal and extended bright streaks.

Jeff Cuzzi who is a co-author of the paper and a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist specializing in planetary rings and dust at NASA`s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California commented, "Saturn`s rings are unusually bright and clean, leading some to suggest that the rings are actually much younger than Saturn. To assess this dramatic claim, we must know more about the rate at which outside material is  bombarding the rings. This latest analysis helps fill in that story with detection of impactors of a size that we weren`t previously able to detect directly." (Cuzzi, J.)

So, if you ever get a chance to look at Saturn and the beauty of its rings that are the highlight of our universe and you see many little holes in them that look like a piece of Swiss cheese or an old and used dart board, don`t panic and think Saturn is and its rings are on the brink of devastation, take a deep breath, calm down and just know that the rings are like many little magnets that attract any and everything that is flying around in space, especially meteoroids and those meteoroids are the culprits that impact the rings, break up into little pieces and then become part of the rings as those little pieces now become one with the planet Saturn and the rings that surround the bold and confident planet.



     Retrieved 2013.

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