Imaging photopolarimeter on Pioneer Saturn

T. Gehrels, L. R. Baker, E. Beshore, C. Blenman, J. J. Burke, N. D. Castillo, B. DaCosta, J. Degewij, L. R. Doose, J. W. Fountain, J. Gotobed, C. E. KenKnight, R. Kingston, G. McLaughlin, R. McMillan, R. Murphy, P. H. Smith, C. P. Stoll, R. N. Strickland, M. G. TomaskoM. P. Wijesinghe, D. L. Coffeen, L. Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


An imaging photopolarimeter aboard Pioneer 11, including a 2.5-centimeter telescope, was used for 2 weeks continuously in August and September 1979 for imaging, photometry, and polarimetry observations of Saturn, its rings, and Titan. A new ring of optical depth <2×10-3 was discovered at 2.33 Saturn radii and is provisionally named the F ring; it is separated from the A ring by the provisionally named Pioneer division. A division between the B and C rings, a gap near the center of the Cassini division, and detail in the A, B, and C rings have been seen; the nomenclature of divisions and gaps is redefined. The width of the Encke gap is 876±35 kilometers. The intensity profile and colors are given for the light transmitted by the rings. A mean particle size ≲ 15 meters is indicated; this estimate is model-dependent. The D ring was not seen in any viewing geometry and its existence is doubtful. A satellite, 1979 S 1, was found at 2.53±0.01 Saturn radii; the same object was observed 16 hours later by other experiments on Pioneer 11. The equatorial radius of Saturn is 60,000±500 kilometers, and the ratio of the polar to the equatorial radius is 0.912±0.006. A sample of polarimetric data is compared with models of the vertical structure of Saturn's atmosphere. The variation of the polarization from the center of the disk to the limb in blue light at 88° phase indicates that the density of cloud particles decreases as a function of altitude with a scale height about one-fourth that of the gas. The pressure level at which an optical depth of 1 is reached in the clouds depends on the single-scattering polarizing properties of the clouds; a value similar to that found for the Jovian clouds yields an optical depth of 1 at about 750 millibars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-439
Number of pages6
Issue number4429
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

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