Time for Saturn’s rings to get their close-up

Icy debris makes up the fine lines and striping in Saturn's B Ring. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Tech/Science Space Institute)
Icy debris makes up the fine lines and striping in Saturn’s outer B Ring. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

In case you missed it, NASA this week released an amazing crop of close-up photos of Saturn’s icy rings. The photos come courtesy of the Cassini mission, which was launched in 1997 as a joint project between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. Cassini reached Saturn in 2004, and has been sending back a rich stream of photos and data about the beringed planet ever since.

In addition to sending back these highly detailed images of Saturn’s rings, Cassini has made several remarkable discoveries about Saturn’s moons, including the presence of a global ocean on Enceladus and liquid methane seas on Titan.

Cassini’s final series of passes around Saturn will begin in April 2017, when Cassini will shift its orbit from one that grazes the outer edge of Saturn’s rings to one that dives between those rings and the planet’s surface. When its mission is complete, Cassini will sink into Saturn’s atmosphere and shut down.

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2 comments

  1. Saw a very blurry Mars and a larger than normal Venus, plus Uranus this past weekend at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. Saturn is behind the sun right now and Jupiter didn’t rise until around midnight, just about the time I quit for both evenings. Neptune and Pluto are along with Saturn and behind the sun as well right now. I spent most of the weekend looking at faint fuzzies. However, if I were to look at planets, I must admit Saturn is usually one of the highlights, especially when the rings are at an angle.

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    • Jealous. We’re still buried in clouds here. Or rather, we were last night. Lovely blue sky today, actually. Come to think of it, I might just stay up and see what I can see in the sky tonight.

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