Local Astronomer Makes New Saturn Discovery

February 26, 2017, 9:55 AM HST
* Updated February 24, 8:33 AM
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Composite of mid-infrared images of Saturn on taken on Jan. 23, 2008 captured by the Subaru Telescope. The Cassini Division and the C ring appear bright. Color differences reflect temperature variations, with blue expressing warmer parts, and red expressing cooler parts. Photo courtesy of Subaru Telescope, NAOJ.

A new finding by Hawaiʻi-based astronomer, Dr. Hideaki Fujiwara of the Subaru Telescope revealed that a portion of Saturn’s rings contrast much differently when viewed in the mid-infrared wavelength spectrum.

Dr. Fujiwara made the discovery by analyzing images taken by a group of astronomers at the Subaru Telescope on Maunakea in January 2008. The images are the highest resolution, ground-based photos of Saturn ever taken, according to Subaru Telescope.

The impressive photos reveal that at the time they were captured, the Cassini Division and the C ring of Saturn were brighter than other rings in the mid-infrared spectrum of light. The brightness contrast appeared opposite to what can be seen in visible light.

Dr. Fujiwara said the findings bring new insight into the nature of Saturn’s rings. The research was published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 599, A29.

“We are going to observe Saturn again in May 2017 and hope to investigate the nature of Saturn’s rings further by taking advantages of observations with space missions and ground-based telescopes,” said Dr. Fujiwara.


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