A Faint Ring Shines
December 22, 2006
A recently discovered diffuse ringlet shines brightly in the Cassini Division as Mimas cruises past at bottom.
Most of the main rings are comprised of particles ranging from marble-size to house-size. In contrast, the brightness of this ringlet (seen right of center) when viewed at a high phase angle (the Sun-Saturn-spacecraft angle) indicates it contains a large quantity of microscopic particles, which were likely generated by the disruption of a larger body. Such an event was probably recent, since this ringlet was not observed by the Voyager spacecraft in 1980 and 1981.
This view looks toward the lit side of the rings from about 1 degree below the ringplane. Mimas, which is in the foreground between Cassini and the rings, is 397 kilometers (247 miles) wide. See New Rings for Cassini's Division (PIA08330 and PIA08331) for other views of the new ringlet.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Nov. 18, 2006 and from a phase angle of 140 degrees. Cassini was then at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (800,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 7 kilometers (4 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.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute