Nature is an artist, and this time she seems to have let her paints swirl together a bit.
What the viewer might perceive to be Saturn’s surface is really just the tops of its uppermost cloud layers. Everything we see is the result of fluid dynamics. Astronomers study Saturn’s cloud dynamics in part to test and improve our understanding of fluid flows. Hopefully, what we learn will be useful for understanding our own atmosphere and that of other planetary bodies.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 25° above the ringplane. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 23rd August 2014.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.7 million kilometres) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 23°. Image scale is 63 miles (102 kilometres) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.