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Studies: Planet rings show impact signs

March 31, 2011 at 8:14 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- Asteroid and comet impacts have marked solid bodies throughout the solar system and have affected the rings of the giant planets, U.S. researchers say.

In two papers published in the journal Science, researchers say comet impacts in recent decades have left visible marks on the rings of both Saturn and Jupiter, AAAS ScienceMag.org reported Thursday.

In August 2009, the orbiting Cassini spacecraft recorded images of 65-foot-high corrugations rippling across 900 miles of Saturn's inner ring, which is only about 30 feet thick.

Researchers discovered the corrugations were in fact one continuous wave spiraling in the ring like a groove in a vinyl long-play record.

In 2007, the New Horizons spacecraft heading to Pluto photographed two wave sets spiraling through each other in the faint, dusty ring of Jupiter.

One of those waves appears to be still on the move 13 years after fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit the ring on their way to pummeling Jupiter in 1994, researchers say.

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