This illustration depicts the shearing of an initially circular cloud of debris as a result of the particles in the cloud having differing orbital speeds around Saturn. The numbers in the lower left of the panels in the still image show how quickly a cloud can be elongated. After the cloud is formed, each particle within it follows its own simple orbit. The cloud begins to elongate as particles closer to the planet orbit at a faster speed than the particles farther from the planet. Scientists can use the angle the clouds are canted to infer the time elapsed since it was formed. This method was used to determine the times of the impacts that created the clouds in Saturn's rings that were captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft (see PIA14938 for more information).
An animated version of this graphic can be seen at PIA14942.
For more information on ejecta clouds see PIA11675
The Cassini Solstice 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.