Astronomy Picture of the Day
July 5, 2015

Features of the D-Ring of Saturn
Features of the D-Ring of Saturn

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

Although the D-Ring of Saturn is so thin that it's barely noticeable, as compared to the rest of the Ring System, it still displays the same structures that have been seen in other Saturnian Rings. Here the Spiral Structures in the D-Ring are on display. The D-Ring Spirals, discovered by using the Cassini images, are believed to be due to a "warp" in the Ring that started in the early 1980s; however, the precise mechanism that governs the aformentioned warp still remains the subject of scientific debate. Over the course of the Cassini Mission, Planetary Scientists have been able to observe the Spiral winding ever more tightly as it evolves. For more about the Spiral, please look at PIA12820 and PIA08325.

(Note: the bright "specks" and faint "vertical streaks" which are visible in this picture, are merely Image Artifacts. They are still there because the processes typically employed to remove these Artifacts would also have degraded the exquisite details of the D-Ring which are visible here)

This view looks toward the Sunlit Side of the Rings, from about 22° above the Ring-Plane. The image was taken in Visible Light with the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft's Narrow-Angle Camera on July 6, 2013. The view was acquired at a distance of about 350.000 miles (such as approx. 563.269 Km) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-Cassini Spacecraft, or Phase, Angle of 131°. The image scale here is roughly 2,1 miles (such as approx. 3,379 Km) per pixel.

This frame (which is an Original NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft's b/w and NON Map-Projected image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 18321) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to help the visibility of the details, Gamma corrected and then colorized - according to an educated guess (or, if you wish, an informed speculation) carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga - in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the Saturnian Rings), 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 other things, the existence of different Elements (Minerals) present in the Saturnian Rings, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

Note: it is possible (but we, as IPF, have no way to be one-hundred-percent sure of such a circumstance), that the actual luminosity of the Saturnian Rings - as it is in this frame - would appear, to an average human eye, a little bit lower than it has been shown (or, better yet: interpreted) here.

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