Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2010 August 2
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Prometheus Creating Saturn Ring Streamers
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: What's causing those strange dark streaks in the rings of Saturn? Prometheus. Specifically, an orbital dance involving Saturn's moon Prometheus keeps creating unusual light and dark streamers in the F-Ring of Saturn. Now Prometheus orbits Saturn just inside the thin F-ring, but ventures into its inner edge about every 15 hours. Prometheus' gravity then pulls the closest ring particles toward the 80-km moon. The result is not only a stream of bright ring particles but also a dark ribbon where ring particles used to be. Since Prometheus orbits faster than the ring particles, the icy moon pulls out a new streamer every pass. Above, several streamers or kinks are visible at once. The above photograph was taken in June by the robotic Cassini Spacecraft orbiting Saturn. The oblong moon Prometheus is visible on the far left.

Tomorrow's picture: prince planet

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