Home / Science / Saturn's ravioli-shaped "ring moons" could have formed out of a huge impact

Saturn's ravioli-shaped "ring moons" could have formed out of a huge impact

Saturn's Ring Moon Atlas.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

During the last days of the legendary Cassini mission, NASA made a series of orbits around Saturn, capturing unprecedented images of the enigmatic ring of gas giant Monde These photos and other data has now been analyzed by astronomers and shed new light on these elusive objects and the origin of the majestic rings of Saturn.

Saturn has about 60 known moons, a small handful of which are parked or interacting with them, the ring system of the planet. The research results published today in Science give new insights into five of these ring-moons ̵

1; Pan, Daphnis, Atlas, Pandora and Epimetheus – including details of their shape and composition. The new paper, headed by Bonnie Buratti of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA and the California Institute of Technology, also provides new insights into the ring system of Saturn and its possible formation.

The five Saturn ring moons that were included in the new analysis: Pan, Daphnis, Atlas, Pandora and Epimetheus.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute / B.J. Buratti et al., 2019 / Science

Cassini's six orbiting orbits took place between December 2016 and April 2017. The mission ended in September 2017 when the probe deliberately collided with Saturn. The images taken by Cassini were stunning and showed moons that had never been seen before.

Take, for example, Pan an eight-kilometer-wide moon (8 km) with prominent grooves on its surface and a curved equatorial ridge reminiscent of a tutu. Daphnis is in a precarious orbit within a gap in the Saturn ring, and it also has a "rock" around the equator.

In fact, these five inner moons – none of which is wider than about 20 km – are very peculiar and have unconventional shapes, surface features and colors. In addition, they seem to have a close relationship with the rings of Saturn, which is hardly understood. Armed with the new Cassini data and these unprecedented close-ups, Buratti and her colleagues were able to take a deeper look at these mysterious objects.

"We have tried to understand how the ring moons and the main ring system are related," Buratti told Gizmodo. "Mostly they are one and the same?"

Buratti and her colleagues also looked for clues to find out if Saturn's rings formed after a sky collision and if the ample amount of material in the rings was born to the ring moons , In fact, the rock and ice disk around Saturn could be analogous and involve processes similar to the protoplanetary disk of the Sun (which formed the planets, including Earth) in the early days of the solar system. Eventually, the researchers hoped that there would be other volatile chemicals than water ice on these ring moons.

The characteristic geology of these five moons resulted, according to analysis, from a complex, multi-stage process in which the objects were formed from solidifying ring material. Strong tidal pressures and the slow accumulation of ring particles caused grooves and ridges to form on the surface. So it seems that the moons and the ring system have formed out of a huge impact.

"The moons are huge shards left over from the impact," Buratti told Gizmodo. "The" skirts "around their equatorial are particles from the rings that continue to enlarge. The way the moons use particles on their way could be a minor example of how planets are made up of smaller particles.

Maps with segmented geological features of Atlas (A), Daphnis (B), Pan (C) and Pandora (D).
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute / B.J. Buratti et al., 2019 / Science

In terms of weird colors, Pan is the reddest color, while Epimetheus is the bluest color. Buratti said she was "quite surprised at how red the color was" and noted that the moons "turn redder as you approach Saturn, further suggesting that ring particles have accumulated on their surfaces." The chemicals responsible for the colors and the process are not yet fully understood, but they could be red chromophores – a mixture of organic matter and iron. Ice particles or water vapor from the Saturn E-ring and water vapor from volcanic clouds on Saturn's moon Enceladus could contribute according to the newspaper.

"The study confirms the impact that water ice particles release from the cloud clouds Enceladus has across the entire Saturn system," said Tracy Becker, a planet scientist at the Southwest Research Institute who was not involved in the new study, to Gizmodo "It's fascinating to see how these tiny particles really change the color and frostiness of the moons closest to Enceladus, and it's fascinating to see how well Saturn's rings protect the embedded satellites from some of these particles." [19659008] No water was found for other volatiles on the surface of the ring moons.

"The presence of molecules with higher volatility than water ice indicates that material from a colder region originates outside the Saturn system," they write Authors new study. "For example, the discovery of CO2 ice on the irregular outer moon indicated that Phoebe is from the Kuiper belt. "

The lack of volatiles is further evidence that the ring moons have formed within the rings and are not absorbed by Saturn's intense gravity.

Physical dimensions and steepness of Pan surface features.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute / BJ Buratti et al., 2019 / Science

"The results of this essay help us better understand the complex cosmic interaction in working in the Saturn system" According to Tanya Harrison, an Arizona State University astronomer who is not affiliated with the university's new study, Gizmodo said. "The moons, ring particles and even Saturn itself all interact with each other to create worlds and environments that are elsewhere in our solar system."

The coolest part of the study, according to Harrison, is that the odd ravioli-like moons play the main role – Pan, Daphnis, and Atlas – attaining their looks by essentially collecting ice and dust particles from the Saturn rings around their equator while they moving in their orbits. For her favorite ring moon, this distinction applies to Pan.

"I want to know what it looks like when I stand at the base of his ring belt and look up," she said. "It looks pretty steep, so I imagine it's a bit like The Wall in Game of Thrones ."

Like Harrison, Becker is also fascinated by Pan, especially the variations along his She wants to know why the thickness and circumference of the ridge on the surface are so variable. "Becker said future studies should investigate and find out how and where the ring particles are collected on the surface of the moon.

Another interesting (though not entirely surprising) observation, Harrison says, is that one moon is closer to Enceladus, the bluer it is – probably the result of all the water-ice and steam expelled from Enceladus & # 39; South Pole geysers.

"This stuff makes up the entire Saturn e-ring and" snows "at nearby moons." Harrison told Gizmodo. "Enceladus makes a big, if nice, mess in the Saturn system."

The new work is also significant, Becker said, as Saturn's rings can be used to replace the disks around young stars that form planets – including the beginning of our own solar system.

"Images and measurements of the satellites embedded in the rings are one of the best ways to imagine how planets form, grow and interact with the plate," said Becker.

Without a doubt Saturn is one of the most fascinating and fascinating objects in the entire solar system. It contains worlds in worlds, and thanks to the deceased Cassini, we are fortunate enough to be able to experience these alien places.


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