At Saturn, One of These Rings is not like the Others
In a recent study published in the journal Icarus, a team of Cassini scientists reported that one section of the rings appears to have been running a slight fever during equinox. The higher-than-expected temperature provided a unique window into the interior structure of ring particles not usually available to scientists.
The researchers examined data collected by Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer during the year around equinox. The instrument essentially took the rings' temperature as they cooled. The scientists then compared the temperature data with computer models that attempt to describe the properties of ring particles on an individual scale.
What they found was puzzling. For most of the giant expanse of Saturn's rings, the models correctly predicted how the rings cooled as they fell into darkness. But one large section -- the outermost of the large, main rings, called the A ring -- was much warmer than the models predicted. The temperature spike was especially prominent in the middle of the A ring.
Image credit: NASA/JPL
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