Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vertical chunks in Saturn's rings.

Cassini has come up with another surprise in Saturn's rings. Since the rings are nearly edge-on to the sun right now, any vertical structures in the rings will leave a long shadow due to the low sun angle. Saturn has these little so-called "Shepard" moons that will herd the ring particles like a dog chasing scared sheep!
We have seen the little moons stir up the ring particles many times before from the gravity of the moon as it passes through the rings, but now we see that there is also a vertical component of the "wake" that the moon leaves. The waves of particles stick up out of the ring plane and cast a long shadow making it easy to see the 3d effect of the ring material. Pretty neat stuff! It kind of reminds me back in the days when I used to play my dirty, scratched records and end up with a mound of crud in front of the needle as the record spun my "Story of Star Wars" record that I listened to over, and over, and over.....
The vertical stuff is about 1/3 to 1 mile tall, while the little moon is about 5 miles across. Read more at the link below.

No comments: