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These views, taken two hours apart, demonstrate the dramatic variability in the structure of Saturn’s intriguing F ring.
In the image at the left, ringlets in the F ring and Encke Gap display distinctive kinks, and there is a bright patch of material on the F ring’s inner edge. Saturn’s moon Janus (181 kilometers, or 113 miles across) is shown here, partly illuminated by reflected light from the planet.
At the right, Prometheus (102 kilometers, or 63 miles across) orbits ahead of the radial striations in the F ring, called “drapes” by scientists. The drapes appear to be caused by successive passes of Prometheus as it reaches the greatest distance (apoapse) in its orbit of Saturn. Also in this image, the outermost ringlet visible in the Encke Gap displays distinctive bright patches.
These views were obtained from about three degrees below the ring plane.
The images were taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 29, 2005, when Cassini was about 1.5 million kilometers (900,000 miles) from Saturn. The image scale is about 9 kilometers (6 miles) per pixel.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute