CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Towering Edge Waves Pop Into View

Colossal vertical structures in Saturn's rings are brought into stark relief for the first time in images made possible by Saturn's approach to its August equinox.

In an analysis published online today in the Astronomical Journal, imaging scientists use the long shadows cast by newly revealed 3-dimensional waves on the edges of the Keeler gap in Saturn's outer A ring to illustrate how the small moon Daphnis, embedded in the gap, can create such soaring vertical structures. (News release can be found here.)

Jun 11, 2009: Rippling Shadows - Vertical structures created by Saturn's small moon Daphnis cast long shadows across the rings in this dramatic image taken as the planet approaches its mid-August 2009 equinox.
Jun 11, 2009: Wave Shadows in Motion - The little moon Daphnis and its entourage of waves on the edge of the Keeler gap in Saturn's rings cast long shadows in this movie created from images taken as the planet approaches its mid-August 2009 equinox.
Jun 11, 2009: Tiny Moon, Looming Shadows - Never-before-seen looming vertical structures created by the tiny moon Daphnis cast long shadows across the rings in this startling image taken as Saturn approaches its mid-August 2009 equinox.
Jun 11, 2009: Wavy Shadows - Looming vertical structures, seen here for the first time and created by Saturn's moon Daphnis, rise above the planet's otherwise flat, thin disk of rings to cast long shadows in this Cassini image.
Alliance Member Comments
Iapetus Monolith (Jun 22, 2009 at 1:04 PM):
Bizarre, like a magnified LP groove - how would the Perturbed Rings of Saturn sound if played at "thirty-three and a third"!
stowaway (Jun 12, 2009 at 4:31 PM):
These pictures are absolutely incredible. I have been watching the shadowpix with great interest but these latest are a giant leap. This has caused a major overloading of my Wowmeter. And it's only going to get better in the months to come. So much to look forward to. I'm sure you've got some great images planned for the equinox! Man! This is really exciting! Congratulations to all of you there. You... are... appreciated!
rochelimit (Jun 12, 2009 at 12:10 PM):
Wow, amazing. imagine being close to the ring, watching it as a relatively flat surface, and as Daphnis pass, this mountain-like formation began to form ... NASA should make a visualization of this, would be extremely extremely extremely awesome.
CheshireCat (Jun 12, 2009 at 9:47 AM):
Aleksandar, to address your question about ripples below the ring plane: it's a bit complicated. It turns out that Daphnis warps the whole edge of the gap so that everything moves up and down together. However, some *parts* of the edge move further up or down than others, leading to the rippled edge. So where you don't see a long shadow here, the edge is still lifted up, just not very far (probably a tenth of a kilometer or so).

If there *were* shadows being cast of the other side of the rings, we would probably be able to see them. We've seen shadows of moons through the A ring before, anyway.

-John Weiss, CICLOPS
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Jun 12, 2009 at 7:41 AM):
Everyone: The waves are asymmetric, from one side of Daphnis to another, because of the fact that the particles passing Daphnis on the inside of the gap, towards Saturn, are going faster than Daphnis, and the ones on the outside, towards the outside of the rings, are going more slowly. So, the ones on the inside have already passed Daphnis and have gotten a kick. And the ones on the outside have just been passed by Daphnis and have gotten a kick.

And we didn't know to expect anything like this until we found that Daphnis is on an inclined orbit. Still, it wasn't clear how high these things would get. All told, it's a pretty fantastic result and we are all awestruck.

Can't wait to see what we'll see in the next 2 months!

Tommy (Jun 12, 2009 at 6:53 AM):
Stunning. The waves remind me of a speedboat cutting through a clear lake. Why are the scallops only preceding the on one side and not the other? It's as though the ring particles are preparing for the moon's imminent passing with a cheer, while the other side doesn't get happy till Daphnis has gone by. Is this to do with Saturn's gravity?
In any case you've once again captured the attention and the imagination of the world. My kids (12 and 5) were blown away.
Jay55 (Jun 12, 2009 at 4:27 AM):
WOW! This is absolutely amazing! I am sure this will help science tremendously in our understanding of gravity and its effects. Did we have any suspicions previously that these structure extended above the ring plane to such an extent?! I am blown away. And as someone once said "The more I know, the more I realize I don't know".
Aleksandar (Jun 12, 2009 at 2:33 AM):
Yes, truly breathtaking. Thanks to the team for sharing this beauty with the rest of the world. The waves appear to be quite high, but also quite dense, I thought they will be more wispy. Also, when there is a through on the "up" side, there should be a peak on the "down" side of the rings. Will Cassini be able to image this? And, the waves are not that symmetric. I wonder why... great work and a spectacular mission.
stowaway (Jun 12, 2009 at 1:30 AM):
WOW! I mean WOW!!!

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