Five images of Saturn's rings, taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft between 2009 and 2012, show clouds of material ejected from impacts of small objects into the rings. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Cornell
April 25, 2013
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the first direct evidence of small meteoroids breaking into streams of rubble and crashing into Saturn's rings.
These observations make Saturn's rings the only location besides Earth, the moon and Jupiter where scientists and amateur astronomers have been able to observe impacts as they occur. Studying the impact rate of meteoroids from outside the Saturnian system helps scientists understand how different planet systems in our solar system formed.
The solar system is full of small, speeding objects. These objects frequently pummel planetary bodies. The meteoroids at Saturn are estimated to range from about one-half inch to several yards (1 centimeter to several meters) in size. It took scientists years to distinguish tracks left by nine meteoroids in 2005, 2009 and 2012.
Details of the observations appear in a paper in the Thursday, April 25 edition of Science.
More - Link >>> http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-147&cid=release_2013-147
Sources: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
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