Did You Know

Instruments on board the Cassini space probe, which currently orbits Saturn, have detected an eruption of atomic oxygen in Saturn's E ring. The eruption may have been caused by objects colliding with particles in the ring or perhaps from a meteorite crashing into the ring. Such eruptions may indicate the ring is slowly eroding, and might even disappear within the next 100 million years. Scientists also think that mutual collisions between the particles in the rings will rob them of energy and they will over time spiral into Saturn.

Observations made by the Cassini probe in 2006 showed that the D ring isn't flat like the other rings. It appears to have corrugations like a tin roof. These corrugations are thought to have been caused by an impact as recently as 1984. In September 2006, Cassini also discovered two new diffuse rings made of tiny dust grains. One of them, R/2006S1, lies at the same distance as the co-orbital moons Janus and Epimetheus, 151 500 km from the planet's centre. The other, R/2006S2, overlies the orbit of the tiny moon Pallene at a radial distance of 212 000 km. Two more rings, R/2006S3 and R/2006S4, were found inside the dark, narrow Cassini division.

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