NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently took a cool picture of Saturn, and it looks kind of old-fashioned, like those old photos from a camera. This happened on October 22, 2023, and the picture showed Saturn with a special glow and a bit of a grainy look.
When experts looked closely at the picture, they noticed something interesting on Saturn’s rings—a thick, white band with shadowy spots that looked like messy fingerprints. These weird spots are called “ring spokes,” and they are as big as Earth. They seem to spin around with the rings, but scientists are still figuring out exactly what they are.
These ring spokes show up for a short time, just two or three spins around Saturn, and then they vanish. This has made it tricky for scientists to study them in the past. Voyager 2 first saw them in 1981, and the Cassini mission saw them from 2004 to 2017. Now, the Hubble telescope is keeping an eye on them through a program called Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL).
Scientists think these spokes might have something to do with Saturn’s strong magnetic field, and they believe that the Sun might be involved in creating them. Amy Simon, the head scientist of the OPAL program, says they are heading towards Saturn’s equinox, a special time when they expect to see more of these spokes over the next few years.
By watching Saturn closely with the Hubble telescope, scientists hope to solve the mystery of these ring spokes and learn more about what’s happening on this beautiful ringed planet in our solar system.