FEB 14, 2017 11:37 AM PST

NASA Shows Off More Incredible Photos of Saturn's Rings, All Thanks to Cassini

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Of the many things NASA always keeps the public in the loop of, the spectacular imagery that end up being captured by the space agency’s many active spacecraft is just one of them. Among those is Cassini, a spacecraft residing in the Saturnine system that keeps a keen eye on the planet, its moons, and its rings.

The latest of NASA’s bulk image reveal from Cassini continue to show us just how beautiful and mysterious the Saturnine system really is. They focus primarily on the planet’s rings, which are a feature unique to some of the outer planets in our solar system.

One of the close-up images of Saturn's A ring.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini is nearing the end of its mission and will soon plummet into Saturn’s atmosphere when NASA finally terminates the mission at the end of April of this year. Before that happens, the space agency is spending some much-needed time observing the planet’s rings closer than they ever have before.

Saturn’s rings are made up of icy dust and debris, and inside of all that mess are some larger chunks, some of which are considered moons or moonlets. There are as many as 62 confirmed moons or moonlets orbiting Saturn, while 9 of those haven’t even actually been named yet. The largest of those is Titan, which is larger than both Mercury and Pluto.

The moons and moonlets each have their own gravitational forces, which impact the rings and help to shape and maintain them. Without these moons, such an incredible sight might not be possible.

This capture shows some of the formations inside of Saturn's B ring.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

In these ring photographs, which are some of the closest ever taken, you can make out very unique and incredible details about the rings, including the striations and even small particles that are accumulating. NASA notes that Cassini is so close to the rings in these photographs, that you can make out details that are as small as 0.3 miles in size.

This image shows the horizon of Saturn's outer B ring, and also shows more of the details hidden in the rings.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Among some of the things that you can make out inside of the rings are “straws” and “propellers,” as NASA refers to them. These are structures that the space agency says haven’t been observed this closely since Cassini’s initial arrival at the Saturnine system in 2004.

A deeper look at Saturn's A ring reveals the small straw and pinwheel structures.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Even the team behind Cassini are pleased with the outcome, including Carolyn Porco, the Cassini Imaging team lead who hails from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado:

"As the person who planned those initial orbit-insertion ring images -- which remained our most detailed views of the rings for the past 13 years -- I am taken aback by how vastly improved are the details in this new collection," Porco said in a statement. "How fitting it is that we should go out with the best views of Saturn's rings we've ever collected."

It’s expected that we’ll see a lot more high-detail shots in the upcoming weeks before Cassini finally goes into grand finale mode and plummets into Saturn’s atmosphere.

To see more of the images NASA has already shared from the Cassini mission, you can check out the space agency's online raw image archive.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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