Volume 412, Number 1, December II 2003
|Page(s)||305 - 316|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||25 November 2003|
Compositions of Saturn's rings A, B, and C from high resolution near-infrared spectroscopic observations
IAS, Bâtiment 121, Université Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France
2 NASA Ames Research Center, MS 245-3, Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000, USA
3 Astronomy Department, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA
Corresponding author: F. Poulet, email@example.com
Accepted: 24 July 2003
We used the NASA IRTF spectrograph SpeX to obtain near-infrared spectra (0.9–5.4 μm) of Saturn's rings, achieving spectral resolution of about 2000. The spatial resolution (about 1 arcsec) is sufficient to distinguish the three main ring components (A, B and C rings) from one another. These new observations of Saturn's rings are the first to combine an extended spectral range with high spectral resolution and good spatial resolution. We combined these data with recent photometric observations acquired by HST in the 0.3–1.0 μm range. The spectra of the A band B rings are dominated by strong features due to crystalline water ice. The shape and the depth of these absorptions differ for each ring, which indicates different water ice grain sizes and abundances. No spectral evidence for volatile ices other than water ice has been detected. Both the lower albedo and the less blue slope in the near-infrared reflectance of the C ring indicate a concentration of dark material different from that in the A and B rings. The broader triangular Fresnel reflection peak at 3.1 μm may support the presence of some amount of amorphous ice. The C ring spectrum exhibits bands centered at 1.73 and 3.4 μm which agree in position quite well with the C–H bands. Although the detection is probable, it requires confirmation. With a radiative transfer model, we constrain the grain sizes and the relative abundances of water ice, a dark colorless component (amorphous carbon) to adjust the albedo and a second contaminant to reproduce the reddening in the UV-visible range represented here by organic tholins. The dark component of the C ring spectrum is included as an intra-mixture only. The cosmogenic implications of the inferred compositions are discussed.
Key words: planets: rings / radiative transfer
© ESO, 2003
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