For the first time, NASA’s Cassini is able to show the world what Saturn’s rings look like from the inside
For the last 13 years, Cassini has been orbiting Saturn; it provided astronomers unprecedented insight of the planet. Now, we also have an inside-out view of Saturn’s rings from the 1,500-mile-wide space between the rings and the planet, space in which no spacecraft had ever ventured.
The spacecraft took 21 images in the space of four minutes during a dive between the planet and its rings that took place on August 20.
Astronomers counted eight main rings groups that surround Saturn. They are composed largely of ice and rocky particles of different sizes. A few of them are as big as mountains. Moreover, the rings are somewhere around 3,200 feet thick and span up to 175,000 miles.
“The entirety of the main rings can be seen here, but due to the low viewing angle, the rings appear extremely foreshortened. The perspective shifts from the sunlit side of the rings to the unlit side, where sunlight filters through. On the sunlit side, the grayish C ring looks larger in the foreground because it is closer; beyond it is the bright B ring and slightly less-bright A ring, with the Cassini Division between them. The F ring is also fairly easy to make out ,” said NASA
Cassini’s grand finale aims to answer some questions, such as the length of a Saturn day, and sample Saturn’s upper atmosphere.