Professor Detects Ripples Created by Comet 700 Years Ago

By Pat Lopes Harris,
Media Relations Director

Seven hundred years ago, a comet nipped Saturn’s rings, creating ripples that can still be detected today, according to a paper recently presented by Professor of Electrical Engineering Essam Marouf. He is a member of NASA’s Cassini science team, 260 scientists from 17 countries who hope to gain a better understanding of Saturn. Marouf discussed his work at a joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences in early October in Nantes, France. “This was a major event that grouped together the two largest planetary sciences conferences in the United States and Europe,” Marouf said. “Nearly 1,500 papers were presented. Happy to report that our team’s paper generated some news.” Science News said the rippling region contains two different waves. “They date back to about the late 1300s, and there is very clear evidence for two events, not one, separated by about 50 years,” Marouf explained. SETI Institute’s Mark Showalter added, “This is such an amazing result. Two events is really a hint that this is a cometary kind of thing. Some object got captured into orbit, made two close passages. Survived the first, not totally damaged — then 50 years later it came back in and that was the end of it.”

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