Pan in the Driver's Seat
May 28, 2008
Pan coasts down its private highway within the Encke Gap.
The process by which Pan (28 kilometers, or 17 miles across) maintains the gap, clearing the neighborhood around its orbit, is believed to be similar to the way that planets clear gaps in debris disks around young stars.
This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 11 degrees above the ringplane.
The limb of Saturn is seen through the rings at upper left.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 24, 2008. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.3 million kilometers (784,000 miles) from Pan. Image scale is 8 kilometers (5 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