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.

October 18, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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Saturn's Rings Seen Sideways
Credit: Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Lab), NASA

Explanation: Saturn's rings are actually very thin. This picture from the Hubble Space Telescope was taken on August 6, 1995 when the rings lined up sideways as seen from Earth. Saturn's largest moon Titan is seen on the left, and Titan's shadow can be seen on Saturn's cloud tops! Titan itself looks a brownish color because of its thick atmosphere. Four other moons of Saturn can be seen just above the ring plane, which are, from left to right: Mimas, Tethys, Janus, and Enceladus. If you look carefully, you will note that the dark band across the planet is actually the shadow of the rings, and is slightly displaced from the real rings - which are best seen away from the planet. Saturn's rings are not solid - they are composed of ice chunks which range in size from a grain of sand to a house.

Tomorrow's picture: The Largest Volcano

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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.