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Published September 15, 1989 | public
Journal Article

High-Resolution Microwave Images of Saturn


An analysis of high-resolution microwave images of Saturn and Saturn's individual rings is presented. Radio interferometric observations of Saturn taken at the Very Large Array in New Mexico at wavelengths of 2 and 6 centimeters reveal interesting new features in both the atmosphere and rings. The resulting maps show an increase in brightness temperature of about 3 K from equator to pole at both wavelengths, while the 6-centimeter map shows a bright band at northern mid-latitudes. The data are consistent with a radiative transfer model of the atmosphere that constrains the well-mixed, fully saturated, NH_3 mixing ratio to be 1.2 x 10^-4 in a region just below the NH_3 clouds, while the observed bright band indicates a 25 percent relative decrease of NH_3 in northern mid-latitudes. Brightness temperatures for the classical rings are presented. Ring brightness shows a variation with azimuth and is linearly polarized at an average value of about 5 percent. The variations in ring polarization suggest that at least 20 percent of the ring brightness is the result of a single scattering process.

Additional Information

© 1989 American Association for the Advancement of Science. 24 May 1989; accepted 25 July 1989. We thank the scientists and staff of the VLA for their support. This is contribution number 4753 of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology. This research was supported in part by NSF grant ATS8601111 and NASA grant NAGW 1448.

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October 20, 2023