CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Many Faces of the C Ring

The range of features to be found in Saturn's C ring are seen in this Cassini image. Near the bottom of the frame is a narrow eccentric ringlet lying in a gap that researchers suspect may contain one or more very small moons. Farther up, the bright feature is one of the C ring's "plateaus", bright features in the C ring that are much denser than the surrounding material and whose origin is also being studied.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 9, 2008 at a distance of approximately 339,000 kilometers (211,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 101 degrees. Image scale is 2 kilometers (1 mile) 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.

For more information about the Cassini Equinox Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: December 18, 2008 (PIA 10537)
Image/Caption Information
  Many Faces of the C Ring
PIA 10537

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Alliance Member Comments
NeKto (Dec 27, 2008 at 11:57 AM):
thank you Carolyn. there are moments when i look at the detailed images of the rings i feel like i am hearing a symphony for the first time. i have no capacity to identify all the instruments. i guess those non gravity forces may have had minor visible effects over a couple thousand million years. to mix metaphors, perhaps they shade the pallet gravity is painting with. but with all the moons within and outside the rings, there is still a symphony. i'll let you scientist folks figure out which instrument is vibrating what string. but i will continue to enjoy the symphony.
Has there been a determination of how much, if any, material from the rings is falling into Saturn? Jupiter's rings appear to descend into the atmosphere. i am curious how "empty" Saturn's ring plain is in close proximity to the planet.
and thanks for another year of great images!
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Dec 26, 2008 at 10:23 AM):
NekTo: The other forces you have mentioned besides gravity -- solar wind, electromagnetic forces, electrostatics -- strongly affect only the smallest particles. Most of what you see in an image such as this is light reflected from the bigger particles, for which these forces have virtually no effect. The vastly dominant force sculpting the structures seen in this view is gravity.
NeKto (Dec 25, 2008 at 8:15 AM):
Friend Red Dragon; there is so much more than gravity at play here. although the major sculptor is gravity, there is also a very strong magnetic field, static electric charges, solar wind and who knows what else. whatever the complete set of influences is, to my eye, the sculpture is magnificent!
Red_dragon (Dec 19, 2008 at 5:16 AM):
It's really interesting to see how much play can give gravity. Not just creating the rings, but also modeling it with largue, heterogeneus distributions of mass and so.
As a side note, the Cassini website has a new face. Looks nice, but being so used to the "classical" site it's not difficult to get lost. Check out: