Spokes and Shadows

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This animation, made up of several raw images from the Cassini spacecraft, shows the mysterious features known as spokes in Saturn’s B ring. These spokes, thicker regions of material within the otherwise uniform rings, were first observed by Voyager in 1980 and have yet to be have their mechanics explained by scientists. Theories range from disturbances by meteorites to radiating electromagnetic effects from lightning storms within Saturn’s atmosphere.

The spokes have also become more and more visible during the approach of Saturn’s spring equinox, now come and gone.

This animation also shows the elongated shadow of one of Saturn’s moons quickly passing over the inner rings, to the right side.

Image credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

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