These two images, taken about eight minutes apart, show clump-like structures and a great deal of dust in Saturn's ever-changing F ring. The images show an object-interior to and detached from the bright core of the F ring that appears to be breaking up into discrete clumps.
Cassini scientists have been monitoring clumps in the F ring for more than two years now, trying to understand whether these represent small permanent moonlets or transient aggregates of material. (See The Clump/Moon Mystery)
This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 35 degrees above the ringplane.
The images were taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 23, 2006 at a distance of approximately 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 12 kilometers (7 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, 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, D.C. 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.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute