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.

2012 May 31
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Lantern Saturn
Credit: VIMS Team, U. Arizona, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Known for its bright ring system and many moons, gas giant Saturn looks strange and unfamiliar in this false-color view from the Cassini spacecraft. In fact, in this Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) mosaic the famous rings are almost invisible, seen edge-on cutting across picture center. The most striking contrast in the image is along the terminator or boundary between night and day. To the right (day side) blue-green hues are visible sunlight reflected from Saturn's cloud tops. But on the left (night side) in the absence of sunlight, the lantern-like glow of infrared radiation from the planet's warm interior silhouettes features at Saturn's deeper cloud levels. The infrared glow also shines from the broad shadows of Saturn's rings sweeping across the planet's upper hemisphere.

Tomorrow's picture: hat trick

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