Saturn, in Natural Colors
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has
provided images of Saturn in many colors, from black-and-white,
to orange, to blue, green, and red. But in this
picture, image processing specialists have worked
to provide a crisp, extremely accurate view of Saturn,
which highlights the planet's pastel colors. Bands
of subtle color - yellows, browns, grays - distinguish
differences in the clouds over Saturn, the second
largest planet in the solar system.
Saturn's high-altitude clouds are
made of colorless ammonia ice. Above these clouds
is a layer of haze or smog, produced when ultraviolet
light from the sun shines on methane gas. The smog
contributes to the planet's subtle color variations.
One of Saturn's moons, Enceladus, is seen casting
a shadow on the giant planet as it passes just above
the ring system.
The flattened disk swirling around
Saturn is the planet's most recognizable feature,
and this image displays it in sharp detail. This
is the planet's ring system, consisting mostly of
chunks of water ice. Although it appears as if the
disk is composed of only a few rings, it actually
consists of tens of thousands of thin "ringlets."
This picture also shows the two classic divisions
in the ring system. The narrow Encke Gap is nearest
to the disk's outer edge; the Cassini division,
is the wide gap near the center.
Scientists study Saturn and its ring
system to gain insight into the birth of our solar
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble
Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: R. G. French (Wellesley College)