Cassini at Saturn. Huygens Results by David M. Harland

By David M. Harland

Whilst pacecraft flew in the course of the Saturian procedure within the years 1979, 1980 and 1981, the implications have been astronishing. The satellits have been eventually proven to be miniature worlds in there personal correct.

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Barnard decided to observe this rare occurrence in order to profile the density of the material across the rings. Unfortunately, Saturn was inconveniently positioned for the 36-inch refractor, so he had to employ a 12-inch. The sequence would start shortly before sunrise on 2 November 1889. As Saturn rose, he saw Iapetus emerge from the planet's shadow. Between the planet and the inner edge of the `C' ring's shadow, its brightness was essentially constant, implying that this zone is more or less clear.

However, stimulated by the discovery of the `C' ring, mathematicallyminded astronomers eagerly began to explore the minutiae of the relationships between the rings and the retinue of satellites. W. Struve announced a detailed analysis of the rings. After correlating all the available observations dating back to those of Huygens, he concluded that the inner edge of the `B' ring was shrinking by about 1 second of arc per century. This meant, he argued, that the material of which the ring was composed was spiralling in towards the planet at a rate of 100 kilometres per year.

The ephemeral nature of the fine ring structure made it possible to reconcile the view of Bond and Lassell that the `C' ring was a continuation of the `B' ring, with occasional subsequent reports of a narrow gap. E. Keeler, visiting, sneaked a preview to test the optics, and was delighted to find a narrow division near the outer edge of the `A' ring. Although referred to in America as `Keeler's Gap', this actually marked the return of Encke's Division, which had been absent for some time. The asteroidal `zones of avoidance' analogy reinforced Maxwell's assertion that Saturn's rings are composed of a myriad of particles.

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