Brain Post: 7 Incredible Facts About the Rings of Saturn | Unreal Photos of the Rings

Miles Clark | | BrainsBrains
Saturn’s rings are unreal

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Saturn’s Rings are one of most incredible features in the solar system.  Who are we kidding, besides life on Earth, Saturn’s rings are the single most fascinating macro-objects in the universe.  Just look at them.  How are they suspended there, in one plane, with that spacing, and those occasional spokes?  Unreal…

(note:  all images taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft sent there to investigate Saturn and it’s rings)

1.  The Rings Have Their Own Atmosphere:  Flying close by the rings, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft observed enhanced levels of oxygen gas in the ring system. Researchers believe water from the rings is broken up into its components, hydrogen and oxygen; the hydrogen dissipates while the oxygen stays.

Dark B Ring spokes in a low-phase-angle Cassini image of the rings’ unlit side.  – wikipedia


2.  Saturn’s E Ring (made of microscopic material) is Absorbing Cryovolcanic Gases Erupting from Saturn’s Moon Enceladus:  Cryovolcanos erupt water, methane, CO2,and ammonia instead of molten rock.  The gases that Enceladus’ cryovolcanos eject is pumping material into the E Ring of Saturn.  The whispy, gassy E Ring absorbs these erupted material and grows it’s ring.

e ring

The backlit E ring, with Enceladus silhouetted against it. The moon’s south polar jets erupt brightly below it.  You can actually see this moon erupting and spraying material into the ring.

3.  Saturn’s Rings Can Disappear:  As Saturn circles the sun (once every 29.5 years), the angle at which we here on Earth view its rings changes. Twice during each circuit, the rings are edge-on as viewed from Earth, making them seem to disappear. These ring-plane crossings vexed Galileo (“Has Saturn swallowed his children?” he asked during a ring plane crossing in 1612), but they’re a killer time for astronomers to study Saturn for new moons and other features without the glare from the ring.


Saturn with Edge on view really shows off it’s moons

4.  Composition of the Particles in the Rings = mostly water ice with trace amount of some silicate materials.

Saturn rings broken down to very small particles
Saturn rings broken down to very small particles


5.  Outermost ring: E Ring is 111,847 to 298,258 miles, from Saturn’s center

All of Saturn's  rings
All of Saturn’s rings, see full size image here:  wikipedia


6.  Likely causes of gaps in rings: Gravitational pull of “shepherd” moons, resonance effects between ring particles and moons

Saturn Ring Gaps
Saturn Ring Gaps

7.  Size of particles in rings: anywhere from 1 cm to several meters, with some larger objects and “moonlets”

Spoke in Saturn's
“Spoke” in Saturn’s rings caused by shadow of a moon

Learn way too much about Saturn’s Rings:  wikipedia Saturn’s Rings


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