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.

2005 June 6
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Saturn: Dirty Rings and a Clean Moon
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Eating surface ice from Enceladus might be healthier than eating ice from Saturn's rings -- it certainly appears cleaner. From their apparent densities and reflectance properties, both the rings of Saturn and its shiniest moon, Enceladus, are thought to be composed predominantly of water ice. For reasons that are not yet understood, however, many of Saturn's ring particles have become partly coated with some sort of relatively dark dust, while the surface of Enceladus appears comparatively bright and clean. The contrast between the two can be seen in the above image taken last month by the robot Cassini spacecraft now in orbit around Saturn. Bright Enceladus shines in the background in contrast to the darker foreground rings. The reason why Enceladus is so bright is currently unknown but might involve bringing fresh water to its surface with water volcanoes.

Tomorrow's picture: galaxies

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: EUD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.