Clumps found in Saturn's rings
Posted: Wed, May 23, 2007, 1:49 PM ET (1749 GMT)
Scientists working with data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have concluded that one of Saturn's major rings is composed of clumps of material rather than a more uniform distribution of smaller objects. Planetary scientists used a series of stellar occultations, where the rings passed in front of a star, to perform a "CAT scan" of the rings, analyzing the distribution of particles within them. They found that one ring, the B ring, contains tightly-packed clumps of material with wider spacings between the clumps than previously expected. The clumps are constantly forming and being town apart by Saturn's gravity, often colliding with one another. This clumpiness may mean that Saturn's rings have two to three times as massive as previously thought.
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