Watch: Hubble captures mysterious shadows on Saturn’s rings

NASA released images from the Hubble Space Telescope that captured some ghostly shadows on Saturn’s rings, a phenomenon known as ring "spokes." 

The images were taken on Oct. 22, 2023, when Saturn was approximately 850 million miles from Earth, according to NASA. 

The "ultra-sharp vision" from Hubble showed Saturn’s spokes which rotate along the planet’s rings. 


FILE - This NASA Hubble Space Telescope photo of Saturn reveals the planet's cloud bands and a phenomenon called ring spokes.

"Their ghostly appearance only persists for two or three rotations around Saturn. During active periods, freshly-formed spokes continuously add to the pattern," NASA said. 

Related: Saturn's rings are disappearing, will be invisible from Earth in 2025 

Hubble is constantly watching Saturn and has observed that the spokes come and go. 

It is believed that the spokes are seasonally driven, according to NASA. 

"We are heading towards Saturn equinox, when we'd expect maximum spoke activity, with higher frequency and darker spokes appearing over the next few years," said the OPAL program lead scientist, Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

The spokes can be seen on both sides of Saturn simultaneously as they spin around the planet. While they appear small in the image, each of those spokes has a length and width stretching longer than Earth’s diameter. 

"The leading theory is that spokes are tied to Saturn's powerful magnetic field, with some sort of solar interaction with the magnetic field that gives you the spokes," said Simon. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles