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"Saturn Can Vibrate Like a Bell" --Creating Spirals in the Ancient Rings

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06/12/2013 06:31 PM

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"Saturn Can Vibrate Like a Bell" --Creating Spirals in the Ancient Rings
Saturn can vibrate like a bell within periods of a few hours, and these oscillations cause gravitational tugs that, in turn, create the spiral patterns in the rings. The cause of the vibrations remains unknown. Researchers at Cornell found the density waves propagate inward and appear to be generated from within Saturn rather than from any moon. Astronomers know that gravity from Saturn’s various moons tug at the planet’s rings and make spirals in them. But the catalyst for certain spiral patterns has been difficult to pin down.

“The locations and properties of these ring disturbances tell us how and with what periods the planet oscillates,” said senior research associate Matthew Hedman, whose new research was published June 11 in The Astronomical Journal. He also presented the research May 9 at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Dynamical Astronomy in Paraty, Brazil. “Just like earthquakes can be used to study the Earth’s interior, and solar oscillations can be used to study the interior of the sun, these vibrations in Saturn can help scientists figure out the internal structure of the giant planets.”

Saturn’s rings act as a seismograph that records these large-scale oscillations, possibly emanating from deep within the planet. The study of these records provides a completely new way to probe structure and rotation of Saturn’s interior, and the astronomers have come up with a name for it: kronoseismology.

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