Skip to comments.Scientists spot new ring around Saturn
Posted on 09/20/2006 5:00:55 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
LOS ANGELES - Saturn's majestic ring system, visible through backyard telescopes, just got a little more crowded with the discovery of a faint, new ring encircling the giant planet, scientists said Tuesday.
The international Cassini spacecraft beamed back images this week showing the new ring, located inside the outermost E ring.
The new ring crosses the orbits of the Saturn moons Janus and Epimetheus, leading scientists to believe tiny particles from the lunar surfaces gave rise to the ring.
Saturn has seven major rings named A through G, although they are not arrayed in alphabetical order. The planet has about a half dozen smaller, unnamed arcs, but the latest discovery is unique because it is the farthest, said Jeff Cuzzi, a NASA planetary ring expert on the Cassini mission.
Scientists are interested in Saturn's rings because they are a model of the disk of gas and dust that initially surrounded the sun. Studying them could yield important clues about how the planets formed from that disk 4.5 billion years ago.
Cassini was able to photograph the new ring Sunday when the sun passed directly behind Saturn, providing a bright backlight. Researchers are now figuring out its size and composition, but it is likely the new ring is made of water ice particles.
The $3.3 billion Cassini mission, funded by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, was launched in 1997. Cassini is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
This image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows a new diffuse ring of the planet Saturn, coincident with the orbits of Saturn's moon's Janus and Epimetheus, released by NASA September 19, 2006. REUTERS/NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute/Handout
On the Net:
Cassini mission: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini
LOL! I was going to say, "what, no rings around Uranus?" :D
Universe's biggest LP.
How fair is that? Saturn gets a new ring and Pluto is downgraded from "planet" to "big hunk of rock."
Saturn's a diva its just showing off. :)
They're just setting us up for the big disappointment a few years from now when the new ring is downgraded to "just a few dots of debris orbiting Saturn" :)
If there happened to be life on Jupiter or one of the other gas giants, I wonder if they would say Earth was too small to be a planet?
We'd nuke em.