NASA's Cassini Captures Amazingly Detailed View of Saturn's Rings
On January 8 of this year, Cassini captured an image of Saturn's infamous rings in unprecedented detail. The image, which NASA just published today, is not only beautiful, but reveals the intricate structure of the celestial phenomenon.
The above image of the sunlit side of Saturn's rings was taken by the Cassini spacecraft from a distance of 566,000 miles using a wide-angle camera, with an image scale of 34 miles per pixel.
"From afar, Saturn's rings look like a solid, homogenous disk of material," NASA said in a statement. "But upon closer examination from Cassini, we see that there are varied structures in the rings at almost every scale imaginable.
"Structures in the rings can be caused by many things, but often times Saturn's many moons are the culprits. The dark gaps near the left edge of the A ring (the broad, outermost ring here) are caused by the moons (Pan and Daphnis) embedded in the gaps, while the wider Cassini division (dark area between the B ring and A ring here) is created by a resonance with the medium-sized moon Mimas (which orbits well outside the rings). Prometheus is seen orbiting just outside the A ring in the lower left quadrant of this image; the F ring can be faintly seen to the left of Prometheus."
Saturn's rings are the most extensive ring system in our Solar System, extending from 7,000 km to 80,000 km above Saturn's equator. They are composed of countless particles that are 99.99% water ice, with a tiny portion of rocky impurities. They were first observed by Galileo Galilei in 1610, and are not visible to the naked eye from Earth.