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Strange ‘spokes’ reappear in Saturn’s rings

The planet Saturn looks very impressive during observations. The famous rings have long become the “calling card” of the gas giant. However, in the 1980s, scientists noticed something strange about them. We are talking about mysterious phenomena, called “spokes”. Their duration is relatively short, but the phenomenon itself has been observed by astronomers for a number of years with enviable regularity. In relation to Saturn, the term “spoke season” even appeared when NASA’s Voyager space mission was launched.

With the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists managed to take high-quality photographs of these strange lines in the rings, but this did not bring science closer to understanding the nature of the phenomenon. Space explorers so far only put forward assumptions and hypotheses. According to one of them, the “spokes” may be the result of changes in the planet’s magnetic field under the influence of the solar wind. This phenomenon is akin to the terrestrial northern lights. Scientists admit that the fleeting shadows captured by the Hubble camera are nothing more than ice particles rotating above the rest of the rings.

Despite the fact that the phenomenon has been observed many times and has a pronounced “seasonality”, no one has yet learned how to predict the beginning of these seasons. Scientists compare this to how impossible it is to calculate in advance the date and place of the first storm, which marks the period of hurricanes. Amy Simon, senior planetary scientist at NASA, said that the spokes of Saturn are a unique natural phenomenon, the mechanism of which has yet to be unraveled.


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