How Saturn shakes its rings

As well as its moons, Saturn itself can create "waves" in its rings. Credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute
As well as its moons, Saturn itself can create “waves” in its rings.
Credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

Saturn’s rings are one of the most beautiful sights in the solar system. They are an amazing planetary phenomenon – countless bits of rock, ice and dust orbiting the planet in relatively paper-thin rings, which, when seen from above, kind of look like a giant vinyl record (remember those?). Saturn’s many moons can affect the rings’ appearance due to their gravitational pull. Now, new research shows how Saturn itself can do this also, essentially “shaking” its rings.

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The ‘red rose’ of Saturn: stunning new colour images of giant hurricane

Cassini image, in false colour, showing the massive "red rose" hurricane at Saturn's north pole. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute
Cassini image, in false colour, showing the massive “red rose” hurricane at Saturn’s north pole.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

Hurricanes are an incredible force of nature, and these huge rotating vortexes of wind are an amazing sight when viewed from space. But Earth is not the only planet that has hurricanes, and there is one on Saturn that dwarfs any on our own planet. Now, the Cassini spacecraft has taken more breath-taking colour images of this colossal wind storm.

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Cassini sees meteor impacts in Saturn’s rings

Just like planets and moons, Saturn’s rings experience frequent meteor impacts. Credit: NASA / JPL
Just like planets and moons, Saturn’s rings experience frequent meteor impacts.
Credit: NASA / JPL

Meteors flashing across the sky are a common sight here on Earth, but of course they are not limited to only our planet; these bits of rocky debris, smaller pieces of asteroids and comets known as meteoroids, can be found just about everywhere in the solar system (becoming meteors when entering and burning up in the atmosphere). Now, the Cassini spacecraft has observed similar impacts occurring in another very different and far-away place: the rings of Saturn!

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Cassini views Venus from Saturn’s shadow

Cassini's view of Venus, as seen from Saturn. Venus is the bright speck shining through Saturn's rings, which are backlit by the sun in this image. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute
Cassini’s view of Venus, as seen from Saturn. Venus is the bright speck shining through Saturn’s rings, which are backlit by the sun in this image. Click for larger version.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

The Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn for a long time now, taking stunning images of the giant planet and its rings and moons. Some new images, released today, show a different world though, far across the solar system and much closer to the sun -Venus.

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