Saturday, July 10, 2010

Giant Propeller Structures Seen in Saturn's Rings

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Thursday, July 8, 2010 that giant propeller-shaped structures have been discovered in Saturn's rings.  NASA believes the structures were created by a new class of hidden moons.

The propeller-shaped structures were located by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.  The structures are located inside one the debris disk rings on the planet and are several thousands of miles long.  This discovery marks the first time scientists have been able to track the orbits of individual objects within a debris disk.  Researchers are hoping to learn how the structures form to give them more insight into the debris disks around other stars as well.

This isn't the first time propeller-like structures have been found in Saturn's rings.  In 2006 an area known as the "propeller belt" was found to be located in Saturn's A ring, its outermost ring.

The structures are gaps in the ring material created by "moonlets" a new class of objects smaller than known moons but larger than the debris particles that make up Saturn's rings.  Cassini scientists estimate the moonlets could number into the millions.

For more information and to see a photo of the propeller-shaped structures, click here.

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