Commotion at Ring's Edge May Be Effect of Small Icy Object
The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn's A ring in this image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft could be caused by an object replaying the birth process of icy moons.
The image is adapted from one in a paper in the journal Icarus, reporting the likely presence of an icy body causing gravitational effects on nearby ring particles, producing the bright feature visible at the ring's edge. The object, informally called "Peggy," is estimated to be no more than about half a mile, or one kilometer, in diameter. It may be in the process of migrating out of the ring, a process that one recent theory proposes as a step in the births of Saturn's several icy moons.
This image is a portion of an observation recorded by the narrow-angle camera of Cassini's imaging science subsystem on April 15, 2013. The bright feature at the edge of the A ring is about 750 miles (about 1,200 kilometers) long.
This view looks toward the illuminated side of the rings from about 53 degrees above the plane of the rings. It was obtained from a distance of approximately 775,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn, with a sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 31 degrees. The scale is about 4 miles (about 7 kilometers) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's 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, Colo.