As NASA's Cassini dove closes to Saturn's final year, the spacecraft provided intricate detail on the workings of Saturn's complex rings, new analysis shows.
Although the mission ends in 2017, science continues to flow from the collected data , Cassini instruments taking their closest-ever observations of the main rings.
Findings include fine details of features sculpted by masses embedded in the rings. Textures and patterns, from clumpy to strawlike, pop out of the images. Saturn's rings (named A through G, in order of their discovery) interact with the planet.
Like a planet under construction inside a disk of protoplanetary material, tiny moons embedded in Saturn's rings particles around them. The observations of deepen scientists The main rings, a series of similar impact-generated streaks in the ring have the same length and orientation, showing that they were caused by a flock of impactors. Saturn itself, rather than, for instance, is moving through the sun.
"These are new details of how the moons are "Sculpting the rings in various ways provides a window into solar system formation, where you have disks evolving under the influence of mass embedded within them," said Lead author and Cassini scientist Matt Tiscareno of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. [1
At the same time, new puzzles have arisen and old mysteries have deepened with the latest research. The close-up of the two distinct textures – clumpy, smooth and streaky – and made clear that these textures occur in bands with sharp boundaries. But why?
"This is the way it looks like," Tiscareno said. And there is no doubt what happens when the two particles are separated and bounce off each other. "
the Ring Grazing Orbits (December 2016 to April 2017) and the Grand Finale (April to September 2017), when Cassini flew just above Saturn's cloud tops. As the spacecraft was running out of fuel, the mission team deliberately plunged it into the planet's atmosphere in September 2017.
Cassini's Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) uncovered another mystery. The spectrometer, which imaged the rings in visible and near-infrared light, identifies unusually weak water-ice bands in the outermost part of the ring.
The new spectral map is sheds light on the composition of the rings. And while scientists already knew that water ice is the main component, the spectral map ruled out detectable ammonia ice and methane ice as ingredients. Cassini has discovered the Saturn's atmosphere.
"If organics were present in large quantities-at least in the main A, B and C rings – we'd see them, "said Phil Nicholson, Cassini VIMS scientist of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
The research signals the start of the next era of Cassini science, said NASA's Ames Research Center's Jeff Cuzzi, who's been studying Saturn's rings since the 1970s and is the interdisciplinary scientist for the Cassini mission.
"We see so much more, and getting up, and getting more and more interesting puzzles," Cuzzi said. Saturn. "
We are just settling into the next phase, which is building new, detailed models of ring evolution – including the new revelation Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"It's kind of like turning the power on, but not on what Everyone just got a clearer view of what's going on, "Spilker said.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a collaborative project of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The radio antenna was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency. and several European countries.
More information about Cassini can be found here: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/cassini