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Shadows, Rings And Spokes Combine At Saturn

Published on 06 March 2014

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Among the interplay of Saturn’s shadow and rings, a set of the ever-intriguing spokes appears in the B ring (just to the right of center).

Scientists expect that spokes will soon cease to form as Saturn approaches northern equinox. The exact mechanism of spoke formation is still the subject of debate, but ring scientists do know that spokes no longer appear when the sun is higher in Saturn’s sky. It is believed that this has to do with the ability of micron-sized ring grains to maintain an electrical charge and levitate above the rings, forming spokes. Thus, these may be some of the last spokes ever imaged by Cassini. The Cassini mission is scheduled to end in September 2017.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 38 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with Cassini’s wide-angle camera on October 22, 2013. Cassini was about 2.6 million kilometers from Saturn at the time.



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Posted 2014-03-06 11:11:00