Even when viewed through a typical amateur telescope, Saturn’s rings offer a jaw-dropping spectacle that always satisfies. But looked at through the eyes of NASA’s now-departed Cassini spacecraft, the view is unlike anything else in the solar system, a stunning tapestry of mind-boggling complexity. This image, taken on 22 August, 2009, by Cassini’s narrow-angle camera at a distance of 2 million kilometres (1.27 million miles) employed red, green and blue filters to produce a natural colour view. The rings are made up mostly of water ice, with particles as small as grains of sand and as large as mountains. The precise nature of the icy material that gives the rings their colour remains a topic of debate.
The shadow of Saturn’s globe on the rings, which stretched across all of the rings earlier in the Cassini spacecraft’s mission, now barely makes it past the Cassini Division. The changing length of the globe’s shadow marks the passing of the seasons on Saturn. As the planet nears its northern-hemisphere solstice in May 2017, the shadow will get even shorter.
Like graffiti sprayed by an unknown artist, unexplained narrow, arc-shaped, reddish streaks are visible on the surface of Saturn’s icy moon Tethys in new, enhanced-colour images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The red arcs are among the most unusual colour features on Saturn’s moons to be revealed by Cassini’s cameras.