DDA 36th Meeting, 10-14 April 2005
Session 3 The Latest from Cassini
Invited, Monday, April 11, 2005, 2:15-3:05pm

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[3.01] Cassini's Cameras Catch Delightful Dynamics Surrounding Saturn

J. A. Burns (Cornell U.), Cassini Imaging Team

Saturn's rings and satellites delight DDA members because of the baroque variety of their extant features and the pivotal role played by resonances. I will review some of the highlights imaged by Cassini during the first nine months of its mission. Numerous density waves, mainly in the outer A ring, were identified with unprecedented accuracy from high-resolution approach images. These include waves initiated by the classically known perturbing satellites, but also by tiny (though nearby) Atlas and Pan, the latter embedded within the A ring. Wavelet analyses have eased identification of waves, allowing estimates of the ring's areal mass density and viscosity, and the perturber's mass. The latter, when combined with satellite images, indicate that low satellite densities (\rho ~ 0.5 g-cm-3) are the norm. Pan pries open the Encke gap, producing edge waves and imposing numerous (kinematic) gravity wakes. A narrow ringlet within that gap, coincident with Pan's orbit, shows clumps and wiggles that march along relative to Pan, presumably horseshoeing particles. All aspects of the narrow Keeler gap still await explanation. Several previously unknown structures may result from collective effects or non-linear instabilities as particles are driven together. The F ring's structure is beautifully complex but can be mostly understood as resulting from Prometheus's tugs. A few isolated narrow ringlets have been found, occasionally sharing the paths of known satellites. Some parts of the rings show time variability already. We eagerly await the switch of co-orbital Janus/Epimetheus in 2006, and again in 2010, and the plunge of Prometheus into the F ring in 2010. To date, three new satellites have been discovered: two orbit between the classical moons Mimas and Enceladus, while the third is a trailing Lagrangian of Dione. Several other objects, probably temporary clumps of material, were sighted near the F ring.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #2
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.