June 13, 2016 – A bright disruption in Saturn’s narrow F ring suggests it may have been disturbed recently. This feature was mostly likely not caused by Saturn’s small moon Pandora (50 miles or 81 kilometers across) which lurks nearby, at lower right. More likely, it was created by the interaction of a small object embedded in the ring itself and material in the core of the ring. Scientists sometimes refer to these features as “jets.”
Because these bodies are small and embedded in the F ring itself, they are difficult to spot at the resolution available to NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Instead, their handiwork reveals their presence, and scientists use the Cassini spacecraft to study these stealthy sculptors of the F ring.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 15 above the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 8, 2016.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 105 degrees. Image scale is 8 miles (13 kilometers) per pixel.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
The University of Colorado-Boulder also has a significant role in the Cassini mission. Professor Larry Esposito of LASP is the principal investigator for the UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS). Esposito and colleagues have used UVIS to make a number of important findings about Saturn’s rings and moons during the mission.