Saturn and its rings are a distinctive emblem of the universe all over the world. However, despite their iconic nature, they still hold some unexpected secrets. A new study finds that, in fact, It heats up your planet’s atmosphere. The NASA team involved in this research, which was just published in Planetary Science Journalstated that this result is a A fact that astronomers had not previously realized in this solar system.
The secret has been hiding in plain sight for 40 years. But it took the foresight of a veteran astronomer to piece together all the information in one year, using observations of Saturn from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Cassini Probe, In addition to the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and the retired International Ultraviolet Explorer mission,” explains NASA spokeswoman Lotfi Ben Javelle, of the Paris Institute of Astrophysics and the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who is one of the lead authors of the article.
Researchers say this unexpected interaction between Saturn and its rings could provide scientists with a A tool for predicting whether other planets in deep space also have a ring similar to that of this star. The new report finds that the telltale evidence is excess ultraviolet radiation, which appears as a spectral line of hot hydrogen in the atmosphere.
The NASA researchers add that the increased radiation means something is polluting the planet’s upper atmosphere, and doing so from the outside. They think the most likely explanation is that Particles from the icy ring raining down on Saturn heat the atmosphere. This could be the result of micrometeorite impacts, bombardment of particles from the solar wind, solar ultraviolet radiation, or electromagnetic forces picking up electrically charged dust.
The pull of Saturn’s gravitational field makes all of this possible, pulling these particles further into the planet’s interior. Scientists claimed that this was a complete surprise. When NASA’s Cassini probe plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere at the end of its mission in 2017, The specialists noted that it measures the components of the atmosphere, confirming that particles are constantly falling from the planet’s rings.
Although the slow disintegration of the rings is well known, its effect on the planet’s atomic hydrogen is surprising. Since the Cassini probe, we already know the effect of the rings. However, we did not know anything about the atomic content of hydrogen, – continues Ben Javel. It’s all powered by cascading ring particles in the atmosphere at specific latitudes. They modify the upper zone, changing the configuration. Then collisions with atmospheric gases likely to heat the environment at a given altitude are also recorded.
Ben Javel’s discovery required archival ultraviolet-light observations collected from four space missions studying Saturn. This includes observations from NASA’s two Voyager probes that passed by Saturn in the 1980s. At the time, astronomers dismissed extra ultraviolet measurements as noise in older detectors.
The Cassini mission, which arrived at Saturn in 2004, collected ultraviolet data from the atmosphere over several years. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 1990, and the International Ultraviolet Explorer, launched in 1978, collected data about the sixth planet from the sun. Since then, there have been lingering questions about whether all the data actually revealed a real phenomenon on Saturn. NASA claimed that the key to the puzzle was Ben Javel’s decision to use measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectroradiometer (STIS).
His careful observations of Saturn helped calibrate ancient ultraviolet data from the four space missions observing the planet. The researcher compared STIS observations of Saturn’s ultraviolet light with the distribution of light from several space instruments and missions. “When everything was calibrated, we clearly saw that the spectra were consistent across all missions. This was possible because we had the same Hubble reference point on the rate of energy transfer from the atmosphere that had been measured over the decades,” explains Ben Javel. It was really a surprise for me. I just plotted the different light distribution data together, and then realized they matched.”
Four decades of UV data covering multiple solar cycles helps astronomers study the sun’s seasonal effects on Saturn.. By putting all the different information together and calibrating it, Ben Javel discovered that there was no difference in the level of ultraviolet radiation. “At any time and place on the planet, we can follow the level of ultraviolet radiation,” Ben Javel continues. This points to the constant “ice rain” from Saturn’s rings as the best explanation. We are only at the beginning of this impact of characterizing rings in the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Ultimately we want to have a global approach that results in a true atmospheric signature on distant worlds. One of the goals of this study is to see how we can apply it to planets orbiting other stars. We can call it Find exo episodes– concludes the specialist.
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system. It is considered a gas giant because it is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium. While these distinct rings may be heating up Saturn’s atmosphere as the study suggests, they are actually composed of ice and rock particles.
The planet has at least 83 known moons, the largest of which is called Titan. Another 20 moons await confirmation and naming, according to NASA. Because it is made of gas, it is the only planet in the solar system that is less dense than water, and will float if it finds itself in a body of water large enough to contain it.