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Daphnis, the tiny moon that inhabits the Keeler Gap in the outer edge of Saturn’s A ring, is captured here in remarkable detail with its entourage of waves.
The edge waves are especially bright in places where ring material piles up, a characteristic that has been seen in computer simulations of the interactions between gap-embedded moons and the surrounding ring particles.
The 7 kilometer-wide (4.3 mile) moon appears to have an unusual shape in this image. It is not simply a bright dot, but instead exhibits a dimmer component immediately to its left. Though it is far from certain, this component may be ring material caught in the act of accreting onto Daphnis, a process currently being studied by imaging scientists.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 9, 2006, at a distance of approximately 422,000 kilometers (262,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 2 kilometers (1 mile) 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.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute