Clumps of ring material are revealed along the edge of Saturn's A ring in this image taken during the planet's August 2009 equinox.
The granular appearance of the outer edge of the A ring, first discovered soon after Cassini's orbit insertion, is likely created by gravitational clumping of particles there. As ring particles round the planet in their orbits in this particular region, they become perturbed by the gravitational forcing of Saturn's two moons, Janus and Epimetheus, whose gravitational resonance at the A ring's outer edge periodically forces the particles close together, promoting clumping (see Scrambled Edge). The individual clumps in this image are a few kilometers across, with the largest being about 10 kilometers (6 miles).
This view looks toward the southern side of the rings from about 18 degrees below the ringplane.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 11, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 190,000 kilometers (118,000 miles) from Saturn and at a sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 94 degrees. Image scale is 780 meters (2,560 feet) 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.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute