DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 11. Planetary Rings I
Oral, Chairs: L. Spilker and C. B. Olkin, Wednesday, September 3, 2003, 1:30-3:00pm, DeAnza III

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[11.08] Recent Hubble Observations of Jupiter's Ring System

M. R. Showalter (Stanford), J. A. Burns (Cornell), I. de Pater (U. C. Berkeley), D. P. Hamilton (U. Maryland), M. Horanyi (U. Colorado)

The period December 2002 through February 2003 provided a rare opportunity to watch Jupiter sweep through its full range of Earth-based phase angles while the rings remained nearly edge-on to Earth. We used this period for a series of Jovian ring observations using the High Resolution Channel (HRC) of Hubble's new Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Phase angles span 0.17\circ--10\circ. Our images showed the main ring, Adrastea and Metis with very high signal-to-noise ratios (SNR). Amalthea's gossamer ring was detected (and vertically resolved) in a small set of specially targeted images. Somewhat surprisingly, we have not yet been able to detect the halo in any of our images, perhaps because it is obscured by the scattered light from Jupiter's disk, positioned just 4\prime\prime outside the HRC's field of view.

Preliminary results from this data set are as follows. (1) The ring is substantially less red than the moons, suggesting that fine dust represents a significant fraction of its backscattering intensity. (2) Neither the rings nor the embedded moons Metis and Adrastea have significant opposition surges. We were hoping to use the surge, which is characteristic of most macroscopic bodies but not dust, as an indicator of where any embedded ring parent bodies might reside. (3) Because our data are so sensitive to Metis (radius ~20~km) and Adrastea (~8~km), we believe that bodies as small as 3--4~km in radius should have been detected in the data. In an initial search, no additional bodies have been detected. (4) The Amalthea ring shows an enhancement in brightness in its outermost 15,000~km. This is consistent with what was seen in Galileo images at very high phase angles.

Support for this work was provided by NASA through the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under NASA contract NAS5-26555.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.