Thursday, June 12, 2008

Researchers Describe 'Chaotic' Saturn System

Most of Saturn's rings are perfectly smooth, orderly and predictable. But one, the NY Times refers to in a short post on the rings as "the family freak," and that's Saturn's F-ring.

Unlike cousins A-E and G, F occasionally breaks out into "spiraling braided streams," plumes and channels.

But it's not all F's fault. It's being instigated by the moon Prometheus and other, smaller moonlets in the Saturn system. Occasionally these bodies will come close enough that their gravity drives F nuts. And sometimes, one of the moonlets crashes straight through the poor ring.

Who cares? Pound360 is fascinated by the imagery, thank you very much. But if you must have something more profound, experts point out Saturn's F ring is the most active, "chaotic system" available for observation in the solar system. So understanding this may shed light on how it all formed.

Below are some pictures Pound360
dug out of the Cassini-Huygens mission home page showing "either solid moons or just loose clumps of particles" impacting the F ring.


(Photo courtesy NASA)

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.