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Saturn’s rings mess with the gas giant’s atmosphere

Shadows and ‘ring rain’ affect electron levels in the planet’s ionosphere, final Cassini data suggest

5:38pm, December 11, 2017
Saturn’s rings

BLOCKING THE SUN  Saturn’s rings cast a shadow on the gas giant’s charged upper atmosphere, blocking ionizing rays as well as visible light.    

NEW ORLEANS — Saturn’s mighty rings cast a long shadow on the gas giant — and not just in visible light.

Final observations from the Cassini spacecraft show that the rings block the sunlight that charges particles in Saturn’s atmosphere. The rings may even be raining charged water particles onto the planet, researchers report online December 11 in Science and at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

In the months before plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere in September (SN Online: 9/15/17), the Cassini spacecraft made a series of

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