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RE: Saturn's F ring
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Bright Clumps in Saturn Ring Now Mysteriously Scarce

A recent NASA-funded study compared the F ring's appearance in six years of observations by the Cassini mission to its appearance during the Saturn flybys of NASA's Voyager mission, 30 years earlier. The study team found that, while the overall number of clumps in the F ring remained the same, the number of exceptionally bright clumps of material plummeted during that time. While the Voyagers saw two or three bright clumps in any given observation, Cassini spied only two of the features during a six-year period. What physical processes, they wondered, could cause only the brightest of these features to decline sharply?
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Spoiler

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted mysterious objects creating trails in the rings that scientists are calling 'mini-jets'. Some of these objects travel in groups creating rippling swirls and eddies in the planet's strange ring. Credit: NASA / JPL



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Cassini Sees Objects Blazing Trails in Saturn Ring

Classic Trails or Mini-JetsImages from NASA's Cassini spacecraft
Wavy, Wiggly RingExotic Trails or Mini-Jets
 Small Trail at Saturn Orbit Insertion

Scientists working with images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange kilometre-sized objects punching through parts of Saturn's F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them. These trails in the rings, which scientists are calling "mini-jets," fill in a missing link in our story of the curious behaviour of the F ring. The results will be presented tomorrow at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria.

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One of Saturn's rings is flaring and fading in a very strange fashion. When Voyager 1 visited the planet in 1980, the ring was faint, but it sparkled with bright spots. By the time the Cassini mission arrived in 2004, the spots were gone - but the ring as a whole had grown twice as bright.
The F ring has been a puzzle since it was discovered by the Pioneer 11 spacecraft in 1979. While most of the inner rings have clear, well-defined edges, the F ring, which is the outermost of Saturn's main rings, has a thin central core surrounded by a diffuse skirt of smoke-sized ice particles. That swirl of smoke forms kinks and knots, and some of it winds around the ring's core in a spiral.
Most of these funny features can be blamed on the little moon Prometheus, which orbits just inside the F ring.

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