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Mission Cassini: Nano Dust Rain from Saturn’s Rings

Findings Published in “Science”

№ 260/2018 from Oct 05, 2018

Nanometer-sized particles of dust are whirling in the gap between the planet Saturn and its rings, as shown by experiments following the grand finale of the Cassini spacecraft, which burned out in 2017. The particles consist of water ice and silicates, and according to the latest measurements, they come from Saturn’s rings. As the data measured by the Cosmic Dust Analyzer instrument (CDA) aboard the probe further demonstrate, the particles travel in a vortex-shaped path toward the planet, due to the nature of Saturn’s magnetic field. In the last weeks before the spacecraft burned up, it dived through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings 21 times. Measurements taken during eight of these flights were analyzed by scientists including Prof. Dr. Frank Postberg, who heads the working group of Planetary Sciences at the Institute of Geological Sciences, Freie Universität, and Dr. Nozair Khawaja. Prof. Dr. Postberg is also co-investigator of the CDA experiment on Cassini. The findings were published on Friday in Science.

The scientists found out impacts of interplanetary dust onto the rings troughs up tiny nano dust grains, which then migrate as “ring rain” into Saturn’s atmosphere. The findings were published on October 5 in the prestigious science journal Science.


Hsiang-Wen Hsu et al. 2018. In situ collection of dust grains falling from Saturn’s rings into its atmosphere. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3185

Further Information

Prof. Dr. Frank Postberg, Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-70508, Email: frank.postberg@fu-berlin.de