A Pack of Spokes

Dark spokes in the B ring

Typically, spokes in Saturn’s rings – temporary, shifting bands of material that transect the rings lengthwise – appear as bright streaks when seen from high phase angles but they show up here as subtle dark bands in this low-angle image from Cassini, taken January 27.

Some of the brighter rings on the right half of the image seem to be cutting through the spokes, creating a sense of varying heights of ring material.

It’s not exactly known what creates the enigmatic spokes but it’s thought that they may be made of reflective particles of water ice that group together, perhaps due to electrostatic discharges emanating from powerful lightning storms in Saturn’s atmosphere. Watch a video of them traveling around the rings. Discovered in the 1970s, they were first photographed in the early ’80s by the Voyager spacecraft.

Read more about this image release on the CICLOPS Cassini imaging team site here.

Spoke ’em if you got ’em. 🙂

Image: NASA/JPL/SSI

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