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Saturn’s faintly banded atmosphere is delicately colored and its threadbare rings cross their own shadows in this marvelous natural color view from Cassini.
The planet and its rings would nearly fill the space between Earth and the Moon. Yet, despite their great breadth, the rings are a few meters thick and in some places, very translucent. In this image, we can see through the C ring, which is closest to Saturn, and through the Cassini division, the 4,800-kilometer- (2,980-mile-) wide gap that arcs across the top of the image and separates the optically thick B ring from the A ring. The part of the atmosphere seen through the gap appears darker and more bluish due to scattering at blue wavelengths by the cloud-free upper atmosphere.
The different colors in Saturn’s atmosphere are due to particles whose composition is yet to be determined.
The image was obtained with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on July 30, 2004, at a distance of 7.6 million kilometers (4.7 million miles) from Saturn. Images taken with red, green and blue filters were combined to create this color view. The image scale is 46 kilometers (28 miles) per pixel.
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 Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras, were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute