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Beyond Earthly Skies

Moonlets in Saturn’s A Ring

16 Oct 2013, 10:00 UTC
Moonlets in Saturn’s A Ring NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
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Figure 1: An image of Saturn’s main rings taken by the Cassini spacecraft on 21 June 2004, a few days before the spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.Figure 2: An annotated version of an image of Saturn’s A Ring. This image was taken by the Cassini spacecraft on 9 May 2007, at a distance of approximately 1.1 million km from Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.Saturn’s main rings are comprised primarily of water-ice particles ranging between ~1 cm and ~10 m in radius. In 2006, four ‘propeller’-shaped features were discovered in Saturn’s A Ring from images previous taken by the Cassini spacecraft. Simulations have show that these ‘propeller’-shaped features are formed by gravitational perturbations of ring particles from moonlets measuring tens to hundreds of metres in size.Figure 3: Images of 4 ‘propeller’-shaped features discovered in Saturn’s A Ring. These images were taken by the Cassini spacecraft in 2004 and the nominal image resolution is 52 m per pixel. (M. S. Tiscareno et al., 2004)These moonlets are embedded within the A Ring and are too small to be seen directly by the Cassini spacecraft. Instead, the Cassini spacecraft sees the ‘propeller’-shaped disturbances created by these moonlets. By 2008, ~150 ...

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