Phil Plait of Discover's Bad Astronomy likens the event to the "fist of an angry god" messing up Saturn's F ring. He also raises the question of whether mystery object X has a truly bizarre orbit around the planet which takes it up and down through the rings, or whether it's a wayward wanderer that was pulled in on collision course due to one of Saturn's moons.
Such a photo opportunity only became possible because of tomorrow's approaching Saturn equinox, when the planet turns edge-on toward the sun and effectively makes its rings vanish from Earth's view in the absence of reflected sunlight, as SPACE.com explains. The event only takes place every 15 years.
A lower sun angle compared to the ring plane means that out-of-plane structures currently cast long shadows across the rings. Cassini has taken advantage of this to spot the Saturn system intruder and examine vertical structures within the planet rings.
The Cassini probe's handlers should be pleased that their charge has continued to earn its keep, after several mission extensions over its 11-year tour. If the spacecraft can
keep delivering images like this, we're all for a proposed mission extension through 2017.
Could this possibly be the Starship Enterprise hiding in one of Saturn's rings? Probably not, but a vandalising meteoroid is just as cool.
Within a month we heard, asteroid struck Jupiter, bright spot found on Venus and now this. Are these chain of events a precursors to much worse things to come because of our solar systems new location in the galactic plane? Or are we just getting better at spotting disturbances in on own back yard?
@rlb2, The second, probably.
Although a cosmic upheaval really would spice things up!
And possibly kill us all. Repent!
Maybe it's the Vulcans. I'll prepare my first contact speech.
Nah, it's Riddick, gettin out while the gettins good. Probably mercs chasin him, as usual.