Saturn?s Rings Sparkle with X-rays

images for Saturn?s Rings Sparkle with X-rays
This image, taken by the Chandra x-ray telescope, reveals that the rings of Saturn sparkle; in this x-ray/optical composite, they are visible as blue dots. This radiation?s source is likely fluorescence caused by solar x-rays as they strike oxygen atoms in the water molecules of the planet?s icy rings. As the image shows, most of the ring?s x-rays originate in the B ring?the bright white inner ring visible in this optical image?which is approximately 25,000 kilometers wide and 40,000 kilometers above the planet?s surface. X-rays may also be concentrated on Saturn?s left side, possibly because of their association with shadows in the planet?s rings that are known as spokes, or possibly as a result of the additional solar fluorescence caused by the transient ice clouds that produce spokes. Other Chandra observations of Saturn show that the x-ray brightness of the rings varies significantly from one week to the next.
Record ID
SPI_433
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Division
Chandra X-ray Observatory
Collection
Solar System Collection
Creator
Chandra X-ray Observatory
Credit
NASA/CXC/SAO
Medium
Chandra telescope x-ray
2003
Image ID
Saturn_rngs_xray_opt_1
Type
Photographs