Partial rings found orbiting Saturn moons

Sept. 8, 2008 at 10:55 AM
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PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. space agency says its Cassini spacecraft has discovered partial rings orbiting two of Saturn's moons.

Cassini detected a faint, partial ring orbiting with one small moon and confirmed the presence of another partial ring orbiting with a second moon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the findings are further evidence that most of that planet's small, inner moons orbit within partial or complete rings.

NASA said the Cassini images show material, called ring arcs, extending ahead of and behind the small moons Anthe and Methone in their orbits. That, officials said, indicates the gravitational influence of nearby moons on ring particles might be the deciding factor in whether an arc or complete ring is formed.

The images mark the first detection of an arc of material near Anthe. The Methone arc was previously detected by Cassini's Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument, and the new images confirm its presence.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of the U.S., European and Italian space agencies. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA.

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