What's lurking within the rings of Saturn?

The rings of Saturn are among the most beautiful objects in nature, but that's just the beginning. The rings are also a powerful natural laboratory for studying the physics of disks in space. And, with more than a decade of data returned by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, the mysteries waiting to be solved are infinite.


From beautiful spiral galaxies to brand-new star systems and massive black holes, nature is chock full of disks. There's just one problem: they are all really far away! Without high-resolution observations, we can only hope to understand so much about this common class of astronomical phenomenon. Closer and more easily observable, the rings of Saturn offer a tantalizing analog right here in our solar system. Although the comparison is imperfect, we can glean an incredible amount of information without even leaving the solar system.