One of the recent images returned from the Cassini spacecraft
, a school-bus-sized probe orbiting Saturn since 2004, includes an odd detail that is puzzling astronomers:
It's not exactly clear what's going on here, even in this slightly zoomed shot. But it looks for all the world - or worlds -- like some small object on an inclined orbit has punched through Saturn's narrow F ring, bursting out from underneath, and dragging behind it a wake of particles from the rings. The upward-angled structure is definitely real, as witnessed by the shadow it's casting on the ring material to the lower left. And what's with the bright patch right where this object seems to have slammed in the rings? Did it shatter millions of icy particles, revealing their shinier interior material, making them brighter? Clearly, something awesome and amazing happened here.
Like the fist of an angry god (Phil Plait / "Bad Astronomy" - Discover, thanks Ugly Canuck)
Related: Saturn Images from Cassini (ciclops.org)
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