Final snaps taken by Nasa’s Cassini probe reveal mystery shapes in Saturn’s rings

Final snaps taken by Nasa's Cassini probe reveal mystery shapes in Saturn's rings

NASA has released new analysis data from its Cassini probe mission and it shows that Saturn’s rings are very grainy in texture.
Scientists think that the rings contain tiny moons, which cause materials to cluster and form visible clumps.
3 This false-color image to the right shows an infrared spectral map of Saturn’s A, B and C rings, captured by the Cassini probeCredit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/CNRS/LPG-Nantes & NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic
This discovery means that Saturn’s rings are much more complex than experts thought.
It was discovered quite recently that Saturn’s moons are affected by the planets rings as the rings deposit material onto the moons and change their shapes.
The new images show that the process also works the other way around as the moons release material that affects the ring structure.
This process hints at how Saturn’s rings were formed and could teach us more about how planets are formed in general.
3 A false-color image mosaic shows Daphnis, one of Saturn’s ring-embedded moons, and the waves it kicks up in the Keeler gapCredit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
3 Nasa’s Cassini probe flew between Saturn’s rings to find out what was happening between themCredit: NASA
Lead author of the study and Cassini scientist Matt Tiscareno of the SETI Institute said: “These new details of how the moons are sculpting the rings in various ways provide a window into solar system formation, where you also have disks evolving under the influence of masses embedded within them.”
A set of streaks around the outer edge of the rings could have been formed by material hitting the rings at the same time because they are the same length and in the same position.
This suggests that the rings are formed from material that is already orbiting the planet and not from external factors such as comets crashing into the planet.
The scientists also discovered that Saturn’s rings had three types of textures — clumpy, smooth, and streaky .
All these textures occur in distinct bands and do not mix.
The next challenge for the researchers is to explain these textures and why they occur separately.
Tiscareno said: “This tells us the way the rings look is not just a function of how much material there is.
“There has to be something different about the characteristics of the particles, perhaps affecting what happens when two ring particles collide and bounce off each other.
“And we don’t yet know what it is.”
Saturn’s rings – what are they, and how did they form?Here’s what you need to know…

The rings of Saturn are mostly made of water ice particles, as well as some rock debris and dust
It’s the most extensive ring system of any planet in our Solar System
The dense main rings extend from 4,300 miles away to 50,000 miles away from Saturn’s equator
They have an estimated local thickness that ranges from 10 metres to 1 kilometre
The rings are caught in a balancing act around the planet
Gravity is drawing them inwards, but the speed of their orbit wants to fling them out to space
But latest research suggests gravity is winning, with Saturn’s rings expected to disappear within 100million and 300million years
Scientists are divided on exactly how the rings of Saturn formed
One theory is that small, icy moons orbiting Saturn collided, smashing up into bits and creating rings
It’s also possible these icy moons were struck by large comets or asteroids, or were broken apart by gravity
The second popular theory is that the rings were never part of a moon, but leftover material from the formation of Saturn

Saturn rings to disappear as Nasa warns ice being sucked into planet by gravity at ‘fastest possible speed’
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