The Astrophysics Spectator



Interactive Pages


Other Pages



Cassini Photographs Saturn's Ring

July 21, 2004

Photograph of Saturn's ring.

Saturn's ring in its natural colors as seen by the Cassini probe. Photo credit: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory today released a photograph from the Cassini probe of Saturn's ring. The image is a composite from Cassini's narrow-angle camera taken of the ring. The image shows the ring's natural colors in the visible wavelengths.

Saturn's ring is composed of ice particles, the only component positively identified in earlier studies. Pure ice is white, and it reflects almost 100% of the sunlight that strikes it. The various shades of brown and grey that one sees in this photograph are thought to be a consequence of contamination of the ice by silicates and carbon. The variation in composition across the ring is currently not understood.

Each streak represents a different orbital path for the particles, and their number is in the range of 500 to 1000. The gaps are produced by the gravitational influence of Saturn's moons. The total mass in the ring is comparable to the mass of one of Saturn's smaller moons.

Ad image for The Astrophysics Spectator.