Scientists using NASA’s Cassini spacecraft noticed a strange ding in one of Saturn’s rings. Thus raising the question: What is the reason behind Saturn’s broken ring?
Saturn is sometimes called the “Jewel of the Solar System”. With shimmering pinks, hues of gray, and a hint of brown, its rings resemble a fresco where nature is the painter, NASA writes.
The rings are made of trillions of particles of dust, rock, and ice orbiting around the planet. These orbits are at different speeds up to thousands of miles per hour. The size of these particles can range from as small as a grain of sand to larger than a skyscraper.
The rings, only about 30 to 300 feet thick, wrap around the planet for about 175,000 miles. To get a sense of Saturn’s immense size, each pixel of the image scales to 8 miles across.
The Case of Saturn’s broken Ring
The dent was found in Saturn’s F ring — its outermost discrete ring. The F ring just might be the most active ring in the solar system. Scientists can see its features changing over the course of a few hours. NASA said the disruption was probably caused by a small object embedded in the ring.
When the small object interacted with some of the stuff in the ring’s core, it produced something that scientists sometimes refer to as a “jet.” Astronomers think that these jets form thanks to the gravitational pull of Saturn’s small, potato-shaped moon, Prometheus.
It “acts as a cosmic shepherd, sculpting the F ring as it makes its orbit around Saturn,” National Geographic writes. “But the moon’s route isn’t perfectly circular, and its uneven pull can create clumps inside the ring that then shoot out as jets.”
The collision itself actually happened pretty recently — within a day or so of when this image was taken on April 8. National Geographic writes “the wound has just about stitched itself back up”. Since in the two months since the picture was taken the ring is forming back to normal.
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