Mitchell, C,, Porco, C., Dones, L., Spitale, J. (2008). "Analyses of the Behavior of Spokes in Saturn's B Ring as Observed in Cassini ISS Images" American Astronomical Society, DPS meeting #40, #24.01.


Abstract
We report on analyses of the spokes in Saturn's B ring as observed by the Cassini spacecraft, from the first sighting in September 2005 to the present. Following Porco and Danielson (1982), we calculate as a function of time the spoke activity level, defined as the area-integrated optical depth of the spokes. We convert the spoke I/F into optical depth, using a radiative transfer "doubling code" and assuming that the presence of microscopic particles in the spokes is the only change in the optical properties of the ring region within a spoke. We search for periodicities in the variation of spoke activity and also correlations with magnetic longitude using a magnetic longitude system derived from the emission of the Saturn Kilometric Radiation (SKR), the rotation of which varies slightly from a constant rate (Kurth et al. 2008). Additionally, we track the activity over a period of years in order to characterize the seasonal nature of this phenomenon.

We also report on the photometric profiles of spokes during different phases of their evolution. We present an analysis of spoke kinematics, measuring the motion on timescales of tens of minutes of the leading and trailing edges of spokes that appear in multiple consecutive images. Assuming that the small ice particles which comprise the spokes are in circular orbits, the azimuthal motion is a measure of their charge-to-mass ratio. While most spoke edges have exhibited normal Keplerian orbital motion and shear, some spokes were observed during their active phase in which the spoke's optical depth increases and its edges move at different rates, broadening the spoke.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Cassini Project.