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A New Look at the Saturn System: The Voyager 2 Images

B A Smith et al. Science.


Voyager 2 photography has complemented that of Voyager I in revealing many additional characteristics of Saturn and its satellites and rings. Saturn's atmosphere contains persistent oval cloud features reminiscent of features on Jupiter. Smaller irregular features track out a pattern of zonal winds that is symmetric about Saturn's equator and appears to extend to great depth. Winds are predominantly eastward and reach 500 meters per second at the equator. Titan has several haze layers with significantly varying optical properties and a northern polar "collar" that is dark at short wavelengths. Several satellites have been photographed at substantially improved resolution. Enceladus' surface ranges from old, densely cratered terrain to relatively young, uncratered plains crossed by grooves and faults. Tethys has a crater 400 kilometers in diameter whose floor has domed to match Tethys' surface curvature and a deep trench that extends at least 270 degrees around Tethys' circumference. Hyperion is cratered and irregular in shape. Iapetus' bright, trailing hemisphere includes several dark-floored craters, and Phoebe has a very low albedo and rotates in the direction opposite to that of its orbital revolution with a period of 9 hours. Within Saturn's rings, the "birth" of a spoke has been observed, and surprising azimuthal and time variability is found in the ringlet structure of the outer B ring. These observations lead to speculations about Saturn's internal structure and about the collisional and thermal history of the rings and satellites.

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