Huge “Snowballs” Seen Piercing Saturn’s Outer Ring

By | April 27, 2012

Giant “snowballs” have been discovered plunging through Saturn’s outermost ring, creating glittering trails of ice dubbed mini-jets, researchers have announced.

The jets were uncovered in new images from NASA’s Cassini orbiter, which has been touring the Saturnian system for the past seven years.

The colliding snowballs are formed as material in Saturn’s F ring coalesces due to the gravitational pull of the nearby moon Prometheus. Scientists estimate that the icy bodies, including the one seen above, are each about 0.62 mile (a kilometer) wide.

Sometimes a snowball sails back through the F ring at a gentle clip of roughly 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) an hour, dragging along icy particles.

The resulting jets “are about 10 kilometers [6.2 miles] wide and extend out from the rings anywhere from 40 to 180 kilometers [25 to 112 miles], depending on their age, with their lengths increasing dramatically over just a few hours,” said Carl Murray, a Cassini imaging team member based at Queen Mary University in London, England.

“At any given time we might expect to see about ten of these if we looked all the way around the F ring.”

–Andrew Fazekas


Using pictures from Cassini’s narrow-angle camera, scientists were able to track the snowballs at the ends of the mini-jets, such as the one above, as they plowed through Saturn’s F ring.

“We have yet to obtain resolved images of these objects,” Murray said.

“However, when we see an obvious ‘head’ at the end of the mini-jet trail, it tends to have a fuzzy appearance”–suggestive of the halo that surrounds a comet–“produced, perhaps, from material on its surface or F ring core material.”

via Pictures: Huge “Snowballs” Seen Piercing Saturn’s Outer Ring.

Amazing that we can observe these things in so much detail.

4 thoughts on “Huge “Snowballs” Seen Piercing Saturn’s Outer Ring

  1. robertmyrland

    That there looks more like a beamship to me than a ice ball…

    1. Xeno Post author

      The large white surface could be pushed by beams of light from the sun like a solar sail, eh? You’re not so nutty after all, robert, sometimes. 😉 They may move just based on gravity, however. If they had a radioactive core like a comet, I think we’d detect that… Not sure though. It could be a kind of ship for some small EBEs that were dormant in the rings.

      1. robertmyrland

        Yeah it could be ice 🙂 Just the shine of the “ball” was in my opinion to bright to be just sun reflections. hehe I am nutty or nuts sometimes yes, anyways I know they are here traveling our skies every day and thats also why I might take such suspecting paths about alien beamships 🙂 I personally do not need to wonder if they are here or not, I know they are and I see them from time to time here in Norway just outside and above my house and sometimes they beam me and that my friend are an amazing experience. Its a humming sound and I am lifted of the floor or if I am on my sofa resting I will be levitated up from the sofa almost all the way up to the roof, then they take me back down. I was told they do this to train me for some future event., I do not know what that event are as they newer told me, however my impression was that they need beam me so that I can get used to it, so that when its serious I would not be afraid.

      2. Xeno Post author

        Robert, sounds awesome. Video tape that please. I’d like to see you get levitated off the sofa. That would totally make my day.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.