In the outer ring of Saturn, here dark blue, there are propeller-shaped vortices.
Reading aloud Thousands of mini-sneakers are hidden in the outer ring of the planet Saturn. They have a diameter of around 50 to 150 meters and cause smaller turbulence in the surrounding ring material. Eight of these propeller-shaped vortices have now been discovered by astronomers on Cassini spacecraft images and calculated that there must be an overall greater number of these minimodes. Presumably, a meteorite impact has split an earlier major moon into thousands of fragments that have been banded within the ring. This supports the theory that the ring system of Saturn was formed during the decay of former moons. With the camera of the space probe Cassini, the researchers discovered eight propeller-shaped turbulences of the ice and rock particles in the so-called A-ring. This outer ring is located at a distance of up to 135, 000 kilometers from Saturn. The turbulences of the ring particles, which typically have diameters of well below ten meters, must be caused by the gravity of larger chunks. For these, the researchers calculated diameters of 50 to 150 meters. The total number of these moonlets called mini-probe is therefore probably many thousands in the A-ring, the scientists conclude.

They suspect to have found with the discovery of an intermediate stage in the formation of the Saturn rings. Larger moons are smashed into fragments by meteorite impacts, which in turn crumble into smaller pieces as a result of impacts or collisions. Final stage would then be the known rings with their comparatively tiny particles. If one puts together the now found fragments, then the original moon would have been a celestial body the size of the Saturn moon Pan with a diameter of approximately 26 kilometers, estimates the astronomical team, to which also German researchers from the University of Potsdam belong.

The researchers calculated that a 20-kilometer Saturn Moon would dissolve in a direct hit by a meteorite in Minimondfragmente that would be spread over a 3, 000-kilometer-wide ring strip. After further collisions and impacts, a new ring would be created in 30 million years. The researchers are now seeking Minimonde in other rings to consolidate their theory.

Miodrag Sremčević (University of Colorado at Boulder) et al .: Nature, Vol. 449, p. 1019 ddp / Martin Schäfer advertisement


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