Astronomy Picture of the Day
June 17, 2013

The Elusive D-Ring
The Elusive D-Ring

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

Saturn's D-Ring may be extremely faint and therefore difficult to observe, but it does reward our patience: as a matter of fact, in this image, the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft has actually captured some of the structure of the tenuous D-Ring, appearing here as a light and dark banding, and visible in the upper-right of the frame.

On the other hand, the brightest Ring Material visible in the lower-left quadrant of the picture is the C-Ring. It must be said that this "Banding" of the D-Ring, which is a totally distinct phenomenon from the so-called "Vertical Warping Pattern" that the Cassini Scientists are also monitoring, still remains a mystery. The bright vertical lines seen in this image are just Star-Trails: in fact, the D-Ring is so faint that long exposures are required to capture it and so, during the imaging process. the stars appear to move significantly in the Field of View, due to the Spacecraft's linear motion.

This view looks toward the Sunlit Side of the Rings from about above the Ring-Plane. The image was taken in Visible Light with the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft Narrow-Angle Camera on April 2, 2013; at a distance of approximately 317.000 miles (such as about 510.160 Km) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-NASA - Cassini Spacecraft, or Phase, Angle of 147°. Image scale is roughly 2 miles (such as about 3,21 Km) per pixel.

This frame (which is a NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft Original b/w frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal and identified by the serial n. PIA 14664) has been additionally processed, magnified, contrast enhanced and then colorized, according to an educated guess carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga (LXTT-IPF), in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye may actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the C and D-Rings of Satun), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among others, the existence of different Elements in the Rings of Satun, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

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