In the past, we had thought that Saturn’s potato-shaped moon Pandora – coated in a fine icy material – worked like a shepherd close at hand with Prometheus, shaping the narrow F ring.
However, results from Cassini’s observations over the last 13years in space, indicate this may not be as thought. Instead, its gravity might cause “havoc” in the ring material.
In an image captured by Cassini on September 14, just a day before it made its fatal dive, NASA has given us an insight of the soon-to-be-perturber – displaying Cassini’s final look at Pandora as it settles in space just by the F ring.
Facts about Saturn’s Rings
• Saturn’s rings comprise of a whole slew of tiny particles that orbit the planet.
• The ring particles are made of water, ice with a small component of rough materials.
• The rings also consist of straw and propellers, which are caused by “amassing ring particles and little, inserted moonlets.”
The data revealed that Pandora plays a smaller role than initially suspected, according to NASA.
“During the Cassini’s mission, it helped researchers comprehend that Pandora and Prometheus collaborate to shepherd the F ring between them, restricting it and sculpting its surprising twisted and kinked structures,” NASA reports.
However, recent data received from the spacecraft revealed that the gravity of both moons working together stirs the F ring into a turbulent state, creating the gap and streamer structure seen somewhere else.
Presently, researchers say it’s possible that Prometheus individually molds the bulk part of the F ring, creating stable areas for the ring material.
Recent discoveries from the last data gotten from Cassini have shown Saturn’s astonishing expanse of rings is held together through the collective effort of some moons, depending on combined gravitational impact to keep the orbiting particles from scattering.
This is only one of many mysteries scientists have now unraveled on Saturn and its rings, as they start to sift through the data gathered just before Cassini’s last dive.