Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 June 24
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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Sunlight Through Saturn's Rings
Credit: P. Nicholson (Cornell), S. Larson (Univ. Arizona), and, NASA

Explanation: Normally, earth-bound astronomers view Saturn's spectacular ring system fully illuminated by reflected sunlight. However, this intriguing picture was made to take advantage of an unusual orientation, with the Sun actually illuminating the rings from below. The three bright ring features are visible because the rings themselves are not solid. Composed of many separate chunks of rocky, icy material, the rings allow the scattered sunlight to pass through them -- offering a dramatic demonstration that they are not continuous, uninterrupted bands of material. The picture is a false-color composite based on Hubble Space Telescope images recorded in November of 1995.

Tomorrow's picture: Shapley 1

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.