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Listen to the sound of silence in Saturn orbit

Saturn and rings
The hexagon-shaped cloud system at Saturn’s north polar region looms in the foreground with the planet’s rings stretching across the background, in an image captured by the Cassini spacecraft’s camera on April 26. Click on the image for a larger version. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Kevin M. Gill Image / CC-BY-2.0)

The researchers behind NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn are relieved, and a bit mystified, to discover that the narrow gap between the giant planet and its rings is virtually devoid of stray particles.

The discovery comes from the bus-sized Cassini spacecraft’s first dive through the gap on April 26, which marked the beginning of the end for the 20-year mission.

“The region between the rings and Saturn is ‘The Big Empty,’ apparently,” Cassini project manager Earl Maize of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a news release.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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