Cassini captures here one of its closest views of Saturn's ring-embedded moon Daphnis.
This image was taken July 5, 2010, at a distance of only about 75,000 kilometers (47,000 miles) from Daphnis. Seen at the upper left of this image, Daphnis (8 kilometers, 5 miles across) appears in the Keeler Gap near the edge waves it has created in the A ring. The moon has an inclined orbit and its gravitational pull perturbs the orbits of the particles of the A ring forming the Keeler Gap's edge and sculpts the edge into waves having both horizontal (radial) and out-of-plane components. Material on the inner edge of the gap orbits faster than the moon so that the waves there lead the moon in its orbit. Material on the outer edge moves slower than the moon, so waves there trail the moon. See PIA11656 to learn more about this process.
Daphnis can also be seen casting a short shadow on the A ring. The novel illumination geometry created around the time of Saturn's August 2009 equinox allows out-of-plane structures and moons orbiting in or near the plane of Saturn's equatorial rings to cast shadows onto the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. To learn more about this special time and to see movies of moons' shadows moving across the rings, see PIA11651 and PIA11660.
This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from about 14 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera at a Sun-Daphnis-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 58 degrees. Image scale is 452 meters (1,483 feet) per pixel.
The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.