Saturn's faintly banded atmosphere is delicately colored and its threadbare rings cross their own shadows in this marvelous natural color view from Cassini.
The planet and its rings would nearly fill the space between Earth and Moon. Yet, despite their great breadth, the rings are a few meters thick and in some places, very translucent. Here we can see through the C ring, which is closest to the planet, and through the Cassini division, the 4,800 kilometer- (2,980 mile-) wide gap which arcs across the top of the 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 colors in Saturn's atmosphere are due to the presence of particles whose composition has yet to be determined.
The image was obtained with the narrow angle camera on July 30, 2004, from a distance of 7.6 million kilometers (4.7 million miles) from Saturn. Images taken with red, green and blue filters were combined to create this color view. The image scale is 46 kilometers (28 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.