Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vertical ripples in Daphnis' edge-waves

The small speck casting a shadow here is Daphnis, which is an 8km satellite that orbits within the narrow Keeler gap that lies near the outer edge of Saturn's rings. Saturn is also very near equinox, so the sunlight that is illuminating this scene travels nearly parallel to the ring-plane. Consequently, this small satellite casts a rather prominant shadow across the ring. Daphnis also has a small inclination, so its motion carries it a bit above and then below the ring plane during each orbit of Saturn. Daphnis' gravity then tugs the nearby ring material up and down, too, which results in the vertical ripples that are seen at the Keeler gap's inner and outer edges. Note that these bright ripples also cast shadows as well. This image was acquired by the Cassini spacecraft on June 8, 2009, and many more such images can also be found at the CICLOPS website.

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