Saturn’s Rings Have Gone Plaid

by Nancy Atkinson on February 9, 2010

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

Saturn's plaid rings. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Are Saturn’s rings spinning at ludicrous speeds? It appears they have gone plaid! The Cassini spacecraft has actually spied two types of waves in Saturn’s A ring: a spiral density wave on the left of the image and a more pronounced spiral bending wave near the middle. And the “plaid” look comes from the slight pixelation visible near the brightest and darkest lines, which the Cassini team says is an unavoidable result of the size of the camera’s sensor and of image processing.

And if you don’t get the “plaid” reference, go watch Spaceballs.

The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Jan. 11, 2010 at a distance of approximately 279,000 kilometers (173,000 miles) from Saturn.

Source: Cassini

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Dark Gnat February 10, 2010 at 8:46 AM

“May the Schwartz be with you!”

ND February 10, 2010 at 11:59 AM

I knew it. I’m surrounded by <censored>!

Aqua February 10, 2010 at 2:01 PM

“…a spiral density wave on the left of the image and a more pronounced spiral bending wave near the middle…”

And this phenomena is generated by Saturn’s moons? or perhaps Saturn’s rotating gravitational field interacting with those moons in a harmonic response? oTay.. I think I get it?

Paul Eaton-Jones February 11, 2010 at 12:54 AM

The above description doesn’t seem very pronounced or obvious on the image I have.

Kemp Woods February 11, 2010 at 4:18 AM

I see a ludicrous number of rings– again– and can only imagine the magnitude of pristine sorting an astrogeoligist might find in tens of thousands of fine lined rings. I know there are distinctive main rings but can anyone tell me if the superfine lines within these rings are concentric or maybe spiraled? Or cases of both?
I was amazed when Voyager showed hundreds of rings but this Cassini image looks to show many thousands. A miners paradise for sure.
Must also mention that there must be life on Saturn and Jupiter, however primitive, and can’t understand why the scientific community pretty much dismisses that thought yet will earnestly consider microbes in the acidic atmosphere of Venus.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: