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When the solar system decided it liked Saturn and wanted to put a ring on it, it put together the most stunning, complex puzzle ring possible, so it's no surprise scientists are still piecing together how it works.
For centuries, Saturn's rings seemed simple, if beautiful — until NASA's Cassini spacecraft arrived at the planet in 2004 and began to reveal their complexity. Now, nearly two years after the end of the mission, researchers are still publishing new studies trying to better understand the features based on the data the spacecraft gathered.
Rings - Resolution - Images - Spectra - Views
"Getting closer to the rings, getting higher resolution images and spectra, we're starting to get new views, some of the best-ever views of some of the dynamics and evolution of what's going on in Saturn's rings," Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, told Space.com.
Spilker is a co-author on a new paper that describes in detail some of the strange features Cassini studied within Saturn's rings. "What's fascinating is as we got ever closer, we just saw more and more structure in the rings," she said. What seemed from afar to be flat, boring sheets turned out to be vibrant grooved structures embellished with small features and gaps.
Detail - Evidence - Change - Series - Bumps
Some of the detail is clear evidence of change, like a series of bumps caused by the interaction between the rings and the small moon Daphnis.
And scientists are still figuring out what causes those details. "A lot of the structure, we don't understand what maintains it over the long term," Spilker said. "We know the ring particles stick together at least for a short period of time … maybe some of the largest particles even create spaces around them."
Paper - Structures - Way - Scientists - Propellers
The new paper describes some of the structures that seem to be created this way, which scientists have nicknamed propellers...
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