Hubble Telescope sees spokes in Saturn’s rings

The equinox is approaching Saturn. And the Hubble Space Telescope has already seen the “spokes” that are always formed in its rings during this period. The reason for the appearance of these objects is still unclear.

The first stage of the formation of “spokes” in the rings of Saturn. Source:

“Spokes” appeared in Saturn’s rings

New images of Saturn obtained by the Hubble telescope indicate that the season of “spokes” has begun on it. This is the name of the thin streaks in its rings, which are always directed towards the planet, that is, perpendicular to the lines of this giant “CD”.

The “spokes” appear before and after the local equinox. This is the name of the moments when the planet returns to the Sun with the edge of its rings. They completely disappear at the approach of the solstice, when the poles of Saturn are illuminated as much as possible.

The next equinox, which in the northern hemisphere of Saturn will be autumn, should come on May 6, 2025. It may seem that it will not be soon, but it is worth mentioning that each of the four seasons on this planet lasts for seven years. And by local standards, it’s really coming soon.

The previous equinox was on Saturn only in 2009. Then the formation of “spokes” in its rings was observed by the Cassini apparatus. It was its observation that the researchers combined with a series of four Hubble images in order to understand what these strange formations really were.

Mystery of the “spokes” in the rings

Scientists first saw the “spokes” in Saturn’s rings in the 1980s. Then they fascinated scientists, but they could not find an explanation. It is unknown what it is. And although the appearance of these formations has been recorded repeatedly since then, scientists have not learned to accurately predict the time of their appearance.

Understanding the nature of the phenomenon is also hindered by the fact that although the other three giants in our system also have rings, nothing like this has ever been observed in them. Perhaps they are too small for this, or they are too far away from us.

The best theory explaining the appearance of spokes during the equinox concerns the influence of the magnetic field of the planet. Planetary magnetic fields interact with the solar wind, creating an electrically charged environment. Small particles in the rings can also be charged. They temporarily rise above them and line up towards the planet.

Scientists hope that the OPAL program, in which Hubble is currently participating, will help to deal with all this. It will impart both visual and spectroscopic data in wavelengths of light from ultraviolet to near infrared to Cassini’s archive of observations. Perhaps this is how it will be possible to understand what “spokes” are.

According to

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