Prometheus Plays Tug of War with One of Saturn's Rings

Saturn and its moon Prometheus Saturn's moon Prometheus, orbiting near the streamer-channels it has created in the thin F ring, casts a shadow on the A ring in this image taken a little more than a week after the planet's August 2009 equinox. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
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November 25, 2009

The diminutive moon Prometheus whips gossamer ice particles out of Saturn's F ring in this image taken by the Cassini spacecraft on Aug. 21, 2009. The moon and the ring have eccentric, offset orbits, so Prometheus dips in and out of the F ring as it travels around Saturn. Its gravitational force drags the dust-sized particles at the edge of the F ring along for the ride.

The ability of the potato-shaped Prometheus to pull material out of the F ring was first theorized in the late 1990s and finally imaged by Cassini in 2004. But because these so-called "streamer-channels" have constantly shifted as Prometheus and the F ring have moved, the F ring has never looked the same twice. The gravitational pull of other moons on other rings has created waves in the edges, but nothing quite as extreme as the streamer-channels of Prometheus.



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