More Ring Studies

Imagery of the ring system taken on 28 October 2004 revealed the presence of S/ 2004S6 near the inner edge of the 'F' ring, but it was not clear whether this was a moonlet or merely a clump of ring material.199 A narrow ring, 300 kilometres wide, designated R/2004S2, was found between the 'Atlas ring' (R/2004S1) and the orbit of Prometheus. An image on 29 October showed a faint 'streamer' of material drawn out from the 'F' ring towards Prometheus. In fact, as subsequent study would reveal, Prometheus, the larger of the two shepherds, not only generated 'knots', 'kinks' and 'clumps' in the ring, but also created 'channels' or 'gores' in the material interior to the core of the ring. These structures were induced by the gravitational effects of the moon as it approached and receded from the ring during its 14.7-hour elliptical orbit. The perturbed particles took on elliptical orbits that led them to oscillate to and fro across the ring, with the result that one orbital period after the encounter there was a dark channel in the interior part of the ring, and, since these took time to dissipate, they formed a repeating pattern along the ring.200

An image (left) taken on 29 October 2004 shows a fine strand of material linking the 'F' ring to the inner shepherd, Prometheus; an image (right) of Prometheus taken on 7 June 2005; and a mosaic (bottom) taken on 13 April 2005 showing how this moon produces a dark channel in the ring every 14.7 hours as it pursues its eccentric orbit, rhythmically approaching and receding from the ring.

An image (left) taken on 29 October 2004 shows a fine strand of material linking the 'F' ring to the inner shepherd, Prometheus; an image (right) of Prometheus taken on 7 June 2005; and a mosaic (bottom) taken on 13 April 2005 showing how this moon produces a dark channel in the ring every 14.7 hours as it pursues its eccentric orbit, rhythmically approaching and receding from the ring.

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