New natural colour view of Saturn's rings
Nine days before it entered orbit, the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens spacecraft captured this exquisite natural colour view of Saturn's rings.
The images that make up this composition were obtained from Cassini-Huygens' vantage point beneath the ring plane with its narrow-angle camera on 21 June 2004, at a distance of 6.4 million kilometres from Saturn.
The brightest part of the rings, curving from the upper right to the lower left in the image, is the B ring. Many bands throughout the B ring have a pronounced sandy colour. Other colour variations across the rings can be seen.
Colour variations in Saturn's rings have previously been seen in Voyager and Hubble Space Telescope images. Cassini's images show that colour variations in the rings are more pronounced in this viewing geometry than they are when seen from Earth.
Saturn's rings are made primarily of water ice. Since pure water ice is white, it is believed that different colours in the rings reflect different amounts of contamination by other materials such as rock or carbon compounds.
In conjunction with information from other Cassini instruments, Cassini-Huygens images will help scientists determine the composition of different parts of Saturn's ring system.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency.
Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute