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Saturn's ring mystery solved

August 03, 2007 19:00 IST

Scientists in the United States claimed to have made a significant move forward in understanding the dynamics of planet Saturn's magnificent and mysterious system of rings.

The behaviour of one ring in particular -- the 'G' ring -- has baffled experts, according to a report posted on BBC News portal. The 'G' is one of Saturn's outermost rings and is more than 1,68,000 km from the centre of the planet.

"It's a dusty ring. Like the 'E' ring and 'F' ring, it is primarily composed of tiny grains of ice just a few microns across," Matthew Hedman, a Research Associate at Cornell University, was quoted as saying.

Hedman is also the lead author of a recently published study in the American Science magazine, which has unveiled the 'G' ring's odd structure.

However, these minute specks can be easily dispersed or eroded as they whiz around Saturn.

For the rings to remain in place, they either need something to serve them with a constant supply of new dust and ice, or for a large object such as a moon to confine the particles in the band through its gravitational interactions.

According to the study, the moon Enceladus directly supplies new material to the nearby 'E' ring while in case of 'F' ring, satellites Prometheus and Pandora may help to keep the particles within this narrow region.

"But the 'G' ring is not near a moon, and that's the thing that makes it odd," Hedman said.

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