Moon and Saturn I土星及其卫星(一)

Amateur Astronomer - - 宇宙奥秘 -

You don’t need gold or gemstones to make beautiful rings. Sometimes all you need are chunks of plain ice and rock — like the rings encircling the planet Saturn. Those rings are among the most beautiful features in the entire solar system.

无须黄金和宝石也能锻造美丽的戒指,有时候只需要一堆普通的冰块和岩石就能做到,就像围绕土星的环一样。那些土星环是整个太阳系最美的特征。 The rings probably represent the remains of small moons. One or more moons may have spiraled too close to Saturn, where the giant planet’s gravity pulled them apart. Or two moons may have collided, blasting them to bits. Or perhaps both processes have been at work.

土星环可能是其小卫星的残骸。一颗或多颗卫星可能曾在距土星过近的位置上运行,而那里强大的引力将它们撕成了碎片;也有可能是两颗卫星相撞,把彼此炸成了碎片;还有可能是这两个过程都起到了作用。 Today, the rings are renewed by some of Saturn’s moons. Big chunks of ice and rock slam into their surfaces, blasting out debris. And the moon Enceladus squirts geysers of water and ice out into space, resupplying one of Saturn’s more distant rings.

如今,土星环被它的一些卫星更新了。大块的冰和岩石猛烈地撞击到它们的表面,炸出了碎片。而土卫二还将水和冰组成的间歇泉喷射到空间中,为距土星更远的光环提供了补给。 Moons also keep the rings in place. Several small moons orbit inside the ring system. Their gravity herds the bits of ring material like a sheepdog guiding its flock.

土星卫星们也保持了土星环的位置。几颗小卫星的轨道在土星环内,它们的引力把土星环的一些物质聚集在一起,如同牧羊犬引导羊群一样。 Over time, some of the material may coalesce to form new moons. But collisions or Saturn’s gravity may rip them apart again — creating new rings for this giant planet.

随着时间的推移,有些物质能积聚在一起,形成新的卫星。但是,撞击或者土星的引力可能会再次将它们撕裂,为这个巨大的行星创造新的光环。

图片是卡西尼号探测器拍摄的土星影像。光环围绕的土星看上去更像是一顶巨大的草帽,而构成这草帽“帽檐”的美丽光环竟然主要是冰和石头。图片来源: NASA/JPL/SSI

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