Wisps in the outer edge of the Keeler Gap

Monday, 15 December 2014
Matthew S Tiscareno and Ethan G. Arnault, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States
The outer part of Saturn's A ring contains five sharp edges: the inner and outer edges of the Encke Gap and of the Keeler Gap (which contain the moons Pan and Daphnis, respectively), and the outer edge of the A ring itself. Four of these five edges are characterized by structure at moderate to high spatial frequencies, with amplitudes ranging from 2 to 30 km (Tiscareno et al. 2005, DPS). Only the outer edge of the Keeler Gap is reasonably smooth in appearance (Tiscareno et al. 2005, DPS), with occultations indicating residuals less than 1 km upon a possibly non-zero eccentricity (R.G. French, personal communication, 2014).

Superposed upon the relatively smooth outer edge of the Keeler Gap are a system of "wisps," which appear to be ring material protruding inward into the gap, usually with a sharp trailing edge and a smooth gradation back to the background edge location on the leading side (Porco et al. 2005, Science). The radial amplitude of wisps is usually 0.5 to 1 km, and their azimuthal extent is approximately a degree of longitude (~2400 km). Wisps are likely caused by an interplay between Daphnis (and perhaps other moons) and embedded moonlets within the ring, though the details remain unclear.

We will present a catalogue of wisp detections in Cassini images. We carry out repeated gaussian fits of the radial edge location in order to characterize edge structure (see Figure, which compares our fitted edge to the figure presented by Porco et al. 2005) and visually scan those fitted edges in order to detect wisps. With extensive coverage in longitude and in time, we will report on how wisps evolve and move, both within an orbit period and on longer timescales. We will also report on the frequency and interpretation of wisps that deviate from the standard morphology. We will discuss the implications of our results for the origin and nature of wisps, and for the larger picture of how masses interact within Saturn's rings.