Saturn, its rings and their shadows are on display in this stunning image from NASA’s Cassini mission, showing dark bands across the planet’s northern hemisphere cloud tops, along with the elongated shadow of the moon Tethys near the planet’s north polar region. Other moons visible in the image include Dione (front right) and Enceladus (back right), a world that harbours a potentially habitable ocean under an icy crust. Cassini captured this view of Saturn on 6 December, 2007, at a distance of a million miles using red, green and blue spectral filters to produce a natural colour view.
New research suggests that some of Saturn’s icy moons, as well as its famous rings, might be modern adornments. Their dramatic birth may have taken place a mere 100 million years ago. This would date the formation of the major moons of Saturn, with the exception of more distant Titan and Iapetus, to the relatively recent Cretaceous Period — the era of the dinosaurs.
On the morning of Thursday, 7 January, observers in the UK with a clear sky and an unobstructed view low to the southeast at 7am GMT (central British Isles) can see a close conjunction between the old crescent Moon, Venus and Saturn — all three encompassed by the field of view of a typical binocular.