Edges of Saturn’s rings are fractal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The images recently sent by the Cassini spacecraft mission (on the NASA website http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/halloffame/) show the complex and beautiful rings of Saturn. Over the past few decades, various conjectures were advanced that Saturn’s rings are Cantor-like sets, although no convincing fractal analysis of actual images has ever appeared. Here we focus on four images sent by the Cassini spacecraft mission (slide #42 “Mapping Clumps in Saturn’s Rings”, slide #54 “Scattered Sunshine”, slide #66 taken two weeks before the planet’s Augus’t 200’9 equinox, and slide #68 showing edge waves raised by Daphnis on the Keeler Gap) and one image from the Voyager 2’ mission in 1981. Using three box-counting methods, we determine the fractal dimension of edges of rings seen here to be consistently about 1.63 ~ 1.78. This clarifies in what sense Saturn’s rings are fractal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number158
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Cassini mission
  • Fractals
  • Ring divisions
  • Saturn’s rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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