Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Inside the rings, a shepherd moon causes streamers

the hand of PrometheusWe keep seeing wondrous things through Cassini's eyes. As the JPL Cassini page says
A shepherd moon can do more to define ring structures than just keep the flock of particles in line, as Cassini spacecraft images such as this have shown.

Prometheus (102 kilometers, or 63 miles across) is seen here with two long streamers of material that it has pulled out of the F ring. When Prometheus comes close to the F ring in its orbit, the moon's gravity tugs on the ring particles. The disturbed particles, now pulled into orbits slightly closer to Saturn and therefore faster, shear out during successive orbits, creating the long and delicate streamers seen here.

This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 31 degrees above the ringplane.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 29, 2006.

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