Prometheus Twists Saturn’s Rings

Article written: 6 Sep , 2006
Updated: 24 Mar , 2012
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This photograph of Saturn’s rings shows the effect of a moon’s gravity. The leftmost ring is Saturn’s F ring, which is very bright in appearance, and is constantly changing. This is because Saturn’s moon Prometheus makes its way through the ring, distorting the ice particles with its gravity. Cassini took this photo on July 26, 2006 when it was 1.5 million kilometers (900,000 miles) from Saturn.

The clumpy disturbed appearance of the brilliant F ring constantly changes. The irregular structure of the ring is due, in large part, to the gravitational perturbations on the ring material by one of Saturn’s moons, Prometheus (102 kilometers, or 63 miles across).

Interior to the F ring, the A ring bears a striking resemblance to a classic grooved, vinyl record. Visible here are the Keeler gap (42 kilometers, or 26 miles wide) and the Encke gap (325 kilometers, or 200 miles wide).

The image was taken using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 862 nanometers. The view was acquired with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 26, 2006 at a distance of approximately 1.5 million kilometers (900,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 141 degrees. Image scale is 8 kilometers (5 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Original Source: NASA/JPL/SSI News Release


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