Colourful threads and shadows around Saturn
Saturn's faintly banded atmosphere is delicately coloured and its threadbare rings cross their own shadows in this natural colour view from the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.
The planet and its rings would nearly fill the space between Earth and the Moon. Yet, despite their great breadth, the rings are only a few metres thick and in some places, they are translucent.
In this image, we can see through the C ring, which is closest to Saturn, and through the 'Cassini division', the 4800-kilometre wide gap that crosses the top of this image and separates the optically thick B ring from the A ring.
The part of the atmosphere seen through the gap appears darker and more bluish due to scattering at blue wavelengths by the cloud-free upper atmosphere. The different colours in Saturn's atmosphere are due to particles whose composition is yet to be determined.
This image was obtained with the Cassini-Huygens narrow-angle camera on 30 July 2004, at a distance of 7.6 million kilometres from Saturn. Images taken with red, green and blue filters were combined to create this colour view. The image scale is 46 kilometres per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute