Image of Daphnis captured by Cassini on Jan. 16, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)
Hello, Daphnis! On January 16, 2017, the Cassini spacecraft captured the best photo yet of Daphnis, a 4-mile-wide shepherd moon that orbits Saturn inside the Keeler Gap at the outermost edge of the A ring (and also just so happens to be my personal favorite moon of Saturn!) The raw image arrived on Earth today, and it’s just beautiful.
Daphnis is very small, and in previous images captured by Cassini over the 13 years it’s been in orbit around Saturn Daphnis has been at best just a few pixels across. It would be quite unremarkable, really, were it not for the dramatic effect it has on the ring material at the edges of the Keeler Gap. Small as it is, Daphnis still has enough of a gravitational pull to draw the fine icy particles of the rings into mile-high waves that rise both above and below the rings as it passes along. Daphnis isn’t only a shepherd, but it’s also quite the sculptor!
Daphnis churns up the edges of the Keeler Gap in this image from June 2010 (NASA/JPL/SSI)
Enlargement of Daphnis from the Jan. 16 Cassini image. (NASA/JPL/SSI/J. ...