Mystery of Saturn

Vertical structures, among the tallest seen in Saturn’s main rings, rise abruptly from the edge of Saturn’s B ring to cast long shadows on the ring in this image taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2009.

It has long been known that Saturn’s rings are not the perfect hoops they appear as in small amateur telescopes, and when the Cassini spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn, the wonky disorder of the massive B ring became even more apparent. Scientists were stunned by towering vertical structures, scalloped edges on the rings, and odd propeller-like features. But scientists have now found the cause of these strange features: The region is acting just like a spiral galaxy, said Carolyn Porco, team lead of the Cassini imaging team.

“We have found what we hoped we’d find when we set out on this journey with Cassini nearly 13 years ago,” said Porco, “(and have gotten) visibility into the mechanisms that have sculpted not only Saturn’s rings, but celestial disks of a far grander scale, from solar systems, like our own, all the way to the giant spiral galaxies.” (…) Read the rest of Mystery of Saturn’s Wonky B Ring: Solved (658 words)

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