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Close Detail Views Show Saturn’s Rings: Cassini

1. This Cassini image features a density wave in Saturn’s A ring (at left) that lies around 134,500 km from Saturn. Density waves are accumulations of particles at certain distances from the planet. This feature is filled with clumpy perturbations, which researchers informally refer to as “straw.”

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2. This image from NASA’s Cassini mission shows a region in Saturn’s A ring. The level of detail is twice as high as this part of the rings has ever been seen before. The view contains many small, bright blemishes due to cosmic rays and charged particle radiation near the planet.
3. This image shows a region in Saturn’s outer B ring. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft viewed this area at a level of detail twice as high as it had ever been observed before. And from this view, it is clear that there are still finer details to uncover.

4. This image shows a region in Saturn’s outer B ring. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft viewed this area at a level of detail twice as high as it had ever been observed before.
The views are some of the closest-ever images of the outer parts of the main rings, giving scientists an eagerly awaited opportunity to observe features with names like “straw” and “propellers.” Although Cassini saw these features earlier in the mission, the spacecraft’s current, special orbits are now providing opportunities to see them in greater detail. The new images resolve details as small as 0.3 miles (550 meters), which is on the scale of Earth’s tallest buildings.
Some of the structures seen in recent Cassini images have not been visible at this level of detail since the spacecraft arrived at Saturn in mid-2004. At that time, fine details like straw and propellers—which are caused by clumping ring particles and small, embedded moonlets, respectively—had never been seen before.
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