Saturn's rings

Photojournal: PIA02275

December 17, 2004

Voyager 2 obtained this high-resolution picture of Saturn's rings on August 22, 1981 when the spacecraft was 4 million kilometers (2.5 million miles) away. Evident here are the numerous "spoke" features in the B ring; their sharp, narrow appearance suggests short formation times. Scientists think electromagnetic forces are responsible in some way for these features, but no detailed theory has been worked out.



Spokes of this nature were observed to persist at times for two or three rotations of the ring about the planet. Freshly-formed spokes seemed to revolve around the planet at the same rate as the rotation of the
magnetic field and the interior of Saturn, independent of their distance from the center of Saturn. It is therefore suspected that the tiny dust grains which form the spokes are electrically charged. Older spokes, which presumably have lost their electrical charge, revolve with the underlying larger ring particles.



For a high resolution image, click here.

ENLARGE