Saturn’s moon Daphnis is only 8 kilometers wide, but it has a fairly substantial effect on the A ring, making waves on the ring’s edge. According to Carolyn Porco on Twitter, this is the closest look yet at this mini, moving moon. Daphnis resides in the Keeler Gap, which is about 42 km wide, but the moon’s eccentric orbit causes its distance from Saturn to vary by almost 9 km, and its inclination causes it to move up and down by about 17 km. That may not sound like much, but within a small gap, this variability causes the waves seen in the edges of the gap. We’ve only known about Daphnis’ existence since 2005, one of the many discoveries made by the Cassini spacecraft, and this is the first image where Daphnis is more than just a little dot. Click on the image to get a closer look.
This image is hot off the presses, as it was taken on July 5, 2010, and sent to Earth just yesterday (July 6). See below for a great new look at Saturn’s ring.
Click the image for a larger version, and prepare to be wowed!