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.