Saturn Surprise: One Ring Is A Spiral
never a dull moment when it concerns saturn...
"and it is changing rapidly. the spiral wound itself tighter between november
2004 and may 2005, the cassini observations show. it will continue to tighten
until the strands blend into a more uniform feature"
be well, be love.
saturn surprise: one ring is actually a spiral
by robert roy britt
senior science writer
posted: 28 november 2005
7:00 am et
ever since voyager 1 returned detailed images of saturn's f ring back
in 1980, astronomers have struggled to understand its bizarre features.
the f ring, an outer thin wisp of icy material orbiting the giant planet, was
discovered in 1979. it's been described as having clumps, strands and braids by
various research groups.
an animation released in december showed the features, described as kinks,
moving through time.
turns out none of these descriptions was right, according to a new study using
data and images from nasa's cassini spacecraft and led by sebastien charnoz at
the university of paris.
"these strands, initially interpreted as concentric ring segments, are in fact
connected and form a single one-arm trailing spiral winding at least three times
around saturn," charnoz and colleagues write in the nov. 25 issue of the journal
the concept is best explained in an artist's conception.
charnoz team made computer simulations to explore the spiral's origin. the new
explanation raises more questions than it answers.
"the newly reported spiral is in a class by itself," says mark showalter, a
seti institute researcher who wrote an analysis of the discovery for science.
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