We finally had clear skies in the morning, to end the year. Along with the clear skies came excellent seeing, although the much-hooplah’ed storm in Saturn’s northern hemisphere was not visible during this imaging session. There’s still much of interest as Saturn draws nearer to its opposition next spring. There’s more data to process from this morning, but that can wait until after the day’s festivities.
Happy New Year to All!
and from just a few minutes earlier, this image shows that the dark spot in the b-ring is indeed a real feature that is rotating with the planetary system. Also, the “spoke” features appear to be visible in the b-ring as well, as the dark features appear consistent between the two sets of data.
Finally, here is an animation of three frames taken in IR light over a 30 minute span. The seeing was poorer for the first frame, but does show the dark spot on the b-ring. The remaining frames show movement consistent with the elusive spokes in the b-ring as well as the dark spot. Also visible is a small moon, mag. 12.1 Enceladus, to the upper right of the rings. I haven’t been able to identify the source of the dark spot on the b-ring or the small moon yet, but hope to soon.
Update: some astute research by my c0lleagues on the CN forums suggests that there were two small moons that could have produced the elongated shadows on the rings. I say “could” because it’s still not clear that this is, in fact, a shadow and not a dark feature in or near the ring-plane. For those interested in further study, the moons are Prometheus and Epimetheus. Either of which may potentially have produced the shadow, but I’m waiting on some systems to come back online after that holidays to investigate further.