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IN PICS: Mystery object punches Saturn's ring

Last updated on: April 26, 2012 09:48 IST

IN PICS: Mystery object punches Saturn's ring

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New images from National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Cassini spacecraft show rogue kilometre-sized objects punching through Saturn's F-ring and leaving glittering trails -- dubbed 'mini-jets' -- behind them.

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IN PICS: Mystery object punches Saturn's ring

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Saturn's narrow F-ring is already known to host a variety of dynamic features including channels, ripples and 'snowballs' that are created by the gravitational influence of nearby moon Prometheus.

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IN PICS: Mystery object punches Saturn's ring

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While some snowballs are likely broken up by collisions and tidal forces, the new images reveal five hundred separate cases where small surviving fragments punch through the F-ring, dragging icy ring particles with them.

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IN PICS: Mystery object punches Saturn's ring

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The objects collide with the ring at low speeds of around two metres per second, resulting in 'mini-jets' that extend between 40 and 180 kilometres from the ring.

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IN PICS: Mystery object punches Saturn's ring

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In some cases the snowball impacts occur in groups, creating exotic patterns as they drag through the ring.


Image: A false-color view of Saturn and its rings

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TOP photo features of the week

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Source: ANI