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NASA Found 'Hardy' Objects in Cassini's New Closeup Images of Saturn's F Ring

Feb 27, 2017 10:33 AM EST
Cassini spacecraft in Earth swing
Cassini's ring grazing orbits resulted in the close-up images of the hardy objects that create a disruptive pattern on Saturn's rings.
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

NASA Cassini spacecraft is still performing its "ring-grazing" orbits near Saturn's rings to catch a glimpse of the lesser-known parts of the ring and the planet's moons. In the recent approach, Cassini spotted a hardy object on Saturn's F-ring.

Cassini photographed the persistent objects. The objects were discovered in 2016 and until today, very little is known about them. The team who spotted the object calls them F16QA and F16QB.

The objects are known to crash and create a disruption in the perfect track of Saturn's F-ring. The collision produces a distinct structure that was also observed last 2006 and 2007. Some say the object could just be loose tiny ring particles. However, scientists think that they may be small solid bodies lurking in the region due to the faint dust surrounding the hard objects that could be a result of collision.

Read Also: Cassini Explores Salty Ocean on Icy Saturn Moon Enceladus  

"The researchers think these objects originally form as loose clumps in the F ring core as a result of perturbations triggered by Saturn's moon Prometheus," a NASA official said in a press release. NASA says if the objects survive collisions, their orbits are indeed likely to change. This also causes the disturbance on the ring. Scientists say that even low-speed encounter with the ring will still produce visible features on the ring.

Cassini captured the image using its narrow-angle camera last Feb. 5. The spacecraft was at a 610,000-mile distance from the ring when the image was captured with 4 miles (kilometers) per pixel resolution.

Aside from the disturbances created by the hard objects, Cassini also managed to take new and up close images of the planet's ring. The detailed images show the bright waves of the rings. This gives scientists and enthusiasts and unprecedented view of the rings that are also visible on Earth by using a telescope.

The latest images will help scientists study the chunks found floating on the ring like icy particles, according to Space.com. The recent images are considered the best since Cassini's arrival in the region.

Read Also: NASA Released Stunning Image of Saturn's Wavemaker Moon Daphnis

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