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Mapping radial features in Saturn's rings

AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts
Publication Date
Oct 28, 2013
SETI Institute


We have carried out a comprehensive survey of the best Cassini ISS data of Saturn's main rings for the purpose of cataloguing all observed spiral density waves, spiral bending waves, and other radial and quasi-radial ring structure. Our survey has revealed a number of new features, including the first known resonant waves raised by Enceladus and Hyperion, thus increasing the number of points at which the local surface density and viscosity of the rings can be measured (cf. Tiscareno et al. 2007, Icarus). We also catalogue several wave-like features whose cause is unknown. Although images of the rings taken by the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) are not nominally as high-resolution as the best stellar and radio occultations, they are capable of superior signal-to-noise because of the co-adding inherent in converting a 2-D image into a 1-D "radial scan." In this common technique, as many as a thousand pixels at a given radial distance from Saturn are combined to produce a single characteristic brightness for each radial location. This process suppresses local structure, azimuthal structure, and random noise, all of which commonly decrease the sensitivity of high-resolution occultations, and causes ISS to be the optimal Cassini instrument for detecting a certain class of low-amplitude features. Finally, we employ wavelet techniques (cf. Tiscareno et al. 2007, Icarus) to elucidate subtle periodic and quasi-periodic features in the radial scan data. We will present our results in the context of a ranking of known perturbations in the rings by their resonant torque (updating Lissauer and Cuzzi 1982, AJ). We will identify the strongest expected perturbations that do not appear, and discuss whether the absence is likely to reflect a real limit of ring responsiveness, or (as with previous observations) to reflect sensitivity limits.

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