Saturn's little wavemaking moon

Apr 25, 2013 by Jason Major
Daphnis’ gravity disturbs the edges of the Keeler Gap as it travels along. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Captured on January 15, this narrow-angle Cassini image shows an outer portion of Saturn's A ring on the left and the ropy F ring crossing on the right. The thin black line near the A ring's bright edge is the Keeler Gap, a 22-mile-wide space cleared by the passage of Daphnis, a shepherd moon barely 5 miles (about 7.5 km) across. As it travels around Saturn within the gap its gravity perturbs the fine icy particles within the rings, sending up rippling waves both before and behind it—visible here near the upper center.

From 's distance of 870,000 miles (1.4 million km) Daphnis itself is just barely visible as a single pixel within the Gap—can you see it?

Highlighting Daphnis inside the Keeler Gap. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

While lacking the murky mystery of Titan's atmosphere, Enceladus' dramatic jets and the tortured and cratered surfaces found on Dione, Rhea, and many of Saturn's larger icy moons, little Daphnis has always fascinated me because of the scalloped waves it kicks up within Saturn's rings. Eventually these waves settle back down, but at their highest they can extend a mile or two above and below the !

This effect was most pronounced during Saturn's spring in August 2009 when sunlight was striking the rings edge-on, creating strong shadows from any areas of relief.

Saturn’s little wavemaking moon
Daphnis seen by Cassini in June 2010. Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

Imagine the impressive view you'd have if you were nearby, positioned just above the rings as Daphnis approached and hurtled past, the rings rising up in mile-high peaks from the moon's gravity before smoothing out again. Incredible!

Like its larger shepherd moon sister , Daphnis may be little but still has a big effect on the icy stuff that makes up Saturn's iconic rings.

Daphnis seen by Cassini in June 2010. Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

And for lots more views of Daphnis click here (but watch out, it may just become your favorite moon too!)

Explore further: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Shepherd Moon face-off!

Dec 21, 2012

Two of Saturn's shepherd moons face off across the icy strand of the F ring in this image, acquired by the Cassini spacecraft on December 18, 2012.

Saturn's B-ring: Taking a closer look

Sep 11, 2012

(Phys.org)—Clumpy particles in Saturn's B-ring provide stark contrast to the delicately ordered ringlets seen in the rest of this view presented by the Cassini spacecraft.

Space Image: Rings, Titan and Enceladus

Apr 19, 2012

Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus hangs below the gas giant’s rings while Titan lurks in the background, in this new image taken by the Cassini spacecraft.   Faint detail of the tiger stripe mark ...

Image: Rings around a crescent

Nov 23, 2010

A crescent Saturn appears nestled within encircling rings in this Cassini spacecraft image. Clouds swirl through the atmosphere of the planet and a barely visible Prometheus orbits between the planet's main ...

Saturn's fluctuating F ring

Nov 20, 2012

Released today, this image acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows some interesting structures forming within Saturn's thinnest but most dynamic ring.

The rings on the planet go 'round and 'round...

Dec 24, 2012

Recently I posted an image of two of Saturn's shepherd moons, Pandora and Prometheus, captured by Cassini in a face-off across the spindly F ring. Now here's a much wider-angle view of the gas giant's rings, ...

Recommended for you

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

6 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.