Saturn’s rings have been the cause of mystery and wonder for many. The secrets of its rings are still unknown; therefore, scientists only know bits and pieces of the way it works. Saturn’s rings were always regarded as simple for centuries until Cassini space probe reached the planet. Ever since then, scientists have published innumerable papers, trying to figure out the ring’s properties based on data sent by the spacecraft.
After getting close to Saturn’s rings, the spacecraft sent the best hi-res spectra and images ever obtained of Saturn’s rings that allow scientists to better understand them, stated Linda Spilker of NASA’s JPL. Spilker was the co-author for a paper which described a few strange features observed about Saturn’s rings. There seemed to be more structure to them as the probe got closer. They were vibrant and grooved structures that had gaps and features in them.
Some are evidence that depicts change. For example, there are bumps caused due to interactions between these rings and Daphnis, its moon. Scientists are yet to understand why the rings are intact for so long. While ring particles come together for short periods of time, it is likely the largest ones can create spaces.
Some structures have jagged and blade-like features which pop against the rings’ smooth striations. They have been nicknamed as propellers. Changes in ring composition or structure make patches seem clumpy or streaky.
Scientists hope the rings can be examined more carefully someday. Scientists were worried during the mission lifespan that particles would damage Cassini. However, they realized towards the end that these dust particles were not capable of doing so. This knowledge can be useful for future missions. However, large particles may still be a threat.
Cassini burned up in 2017 after flying into the planet in 2017. However, satellites analyzing its data still think that there are bigger mysteries to be found and solved.