Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space

What NASA Found Beyond The Rings Of Saturn (omaha.com) 48

NASA's Cassini spacecraft explored the inner edge of the rings of Saturn for the first time, and Phys.org reports that it made a surprising discovery: nothing. "Scientists have been surprised to find that not all that much -- not even space dust -- lies between Saturn's iconic rings." After the first pass, the NASA official managing the project described the the region between the rings and Saturn as "the big empty." An anonymous reader quotes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Cassini also beamed back pictures and other essential data as it maneuvered the 1,500-mile-wide space between the solar system's second largest planet and its icy rings. The images, which take 78 minutes to make the billion-mile trip back to Earth, reveal a blazing, mysterious process of alternating light and darkness in the rings that scientists will be working for years to understand. That seems only fair since it has already taken 20 years for Cassini to be in a position to do what it is doing so far.

Between now and September, Cassini will make 22 dives between Saturn's rings and the planet, clocking at an impressive 76,800 mph each time. The end result should be a treasure trove of stunning images of the planet and its diverse and mysterious rings, along with detailed maps of the gas giant's gravity, magnetic fields and atmospheric conditions. On Sept. 15, it will plunge into Saturn's atmosphere, streaming data back to Earth as it makes its descent of no return.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What NASA Found Beyond The Rings Of Saturn

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    At least we know that we have a safe place for several SNSS ( Saturnian Navigational Satellite Systems) to coexist...

  • Beyond the rings of Saturn was... Saturn! ;)

  • by bosef1 ( 208943 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @01:58PM (#54371793)

    I thought the current theory was that most of the gaps in Saturn's rings are caused by gravitational resonances with other orbiting bodies; these resonances having cleared the resonance orbits in question. I haven't RTFA yet, but is the point that actually finding nothing validates the model, or is there too much nothing, or what?

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @02:10PM (#54371839)
      The dust wouldn't have been as well cleared, and the same bodies that cleared them, would have pushed bits in the dense areas into collisions, resulting in more dust. And no, there's nothign in TFA about the "why", they haven't even gotten back all the "what" yet. I expect that one of the results will include a revised estimate to the age.
    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      I thought the current theory was that most of the gaps in Saturn's rings are caused by gravitational resonances with other orbiting bodies; these resonances having cleared the resonance orbits in question. I haven't RTFA yet, but is the point that actually finding nothing validates the model, or is there too much nothing, or what?

      Yes, the gaps are cleared by resonances with the moons, and this finding does not change that at all. Cassini was going beneath the rings, between the D ring and the upper atmosphere of Saturn, and the general feeling was that there would be a constant stream of ring material ("dust," although really it would be small ice particles) going down from the rings to burn up in Saturn's atmosphere. Now, it seems that isn't so, and I am sure some theorists are working on papers to explain why even as we discuss it

  • Between now and September, Cassini will make 22 dives between Saturn's rings and the planet, clocking at an impressive 76,800 mph each time

    It seems pretty clear that they opted for the Tesla "insane mode" upgrade. Damn those cars are fast. ;)

  • by JonnyCalcutta ( 524825 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @02:07PM (#54371831)

    I guess all the space dust has been sucked up by the space vacuum and put in the space bin.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Headline says Beyond, article says Inside.
    Words matter folks.

  • What are the chances that Cassini will collide with some asteroid or rock orbiting Saturn before ending its mission?
    • What are the chances that Cassini will collide with some asteroid or rock orbiting Saturn before ending its mission?

      Then we'll know what cleared that orbit.

    • Re:Collissions (Score:4, Informative)

      by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @10:35PM (#54373963)

      They were very worried about dust and ice fragments between the rings and Saturn itself before they went inside the rings*, which is why they used the Cassini radio antenna as a shield during the first two ring plane passages. Now that they have found that there is not much dust there, they won't have to do that**, which will free the spacecraft to take better pictures and collect better data.

      As for the rest, Cassini entered orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004. If it hasn't been struck so far, it will probably be OK for the rest of the mission.

      * There was talk about doing this with Pioneer 11 in 1979, but in the end it was viewed as too dangerous.
      ** There will be 4 passes near the D ring for which the antenna will be used as a shield again.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @04:18PM (#54372451)

    Cassini did not find any material beneath the rings of Saturn - that is, between the lowest ring, the D ring, and the atmosphere of Saturn. I don't know why headline writers have been getting this so consistently wrong.

  • Does that mean that they no longer need to use the main antenna as a shield when it's going through the gap?

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      Does that mean that they no longer need to use the main antenna as a shield when it's going through the gap?

      That is exactly what this means, and that will mean better pictures and data from the ring plane passages.

  • No wormhole? I'm dissapointed.
  • Absolutely nothing happened in Sector 83 by 9 by 12 today. I repeat, nothing happened in Sector 83 by 9 by 12.

  • It's interesting to me how we can have people devote their lives to a cause - Animal Rights, Gender Rights, Pollution Cleanup, whatever... Then we have folks whose careers focus on one major project (e.g. the B-52 that has been in service for 70 years, or the ALCM that has been around for 30... to say nothing of design and development for either). And here we have people who devote a few years planning and building, then may never get to see the results. I'd imagine something as big as a probe to do X woul

Philogyny recapitulates erogeny; erogeny recapitulates philogyny.

Working...