Maxwells Namesake
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Maxwell's Namesake

March 25, 2008
March 13, 2008

The Cassini spacecraft examines the Maxwell Gap -- the large, dark division at center -- which is surrounded on either side by the broad, isolated and bright ring regions, or "plateaus," of Saturn's outer C ring.

The gap is named for James Clerk Maxwell, the famous Scottish physicist who showed that Saturn's rings must consist of countless individual particles, rather than solid, concentric ringlets.

Prometheus (102 kilometers, 63 miles across) wanders past at the bottom of this scene, which looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 2 degrees below the ringplane.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Jan. 29, 2008. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometers (697,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale at the center of the scene is about 7 kilometers (4 miles) per pixel in the radial, or outward from Saturn, direction.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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