Saturn from above

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Saturn from above.

Cool image time! The image on the right, reduced in resolution to show here, shows Saturn from above as Cassini began re-positioning itself into a higher inclination orbit for its last year of orbit dives near and inside the planet’s rings.

The view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 41 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 16, 2016 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 68 miles (110 kilometers) per pixel.



  • Joe

    Something about gas giants in the vacuum of space just dosent work for me, the immense pressure should cause it to boil off into the ether. Beautiful just the same.

  • PeterF

    Saturn is an alien artifact! See the hexagonal structure surrounding the pole? Something that regular couldn’t possible be formed through natural processes! And it can only be seen in the near-infrared! The rings are a giant bullseye showing us the way! They are coming to probe our large breasted blonde women!

  • Four times the Earth – Moon distance and Saturn fills the frame. That’s a big planet.

  • LocalFluff

    @Blair Ivey
    Big is an understatement. Saturn is a really really big stuff thingy!
    Jupiter is a few tens of percent larger in diameter, and stars, like Proxima Centauri should not be much larger than that. More mass just increases the density, not the volume by so much. Saturn is almost as big as a non-star can get.

    The gravity of Saturn keeps the gas at bay. Basically like the Earth keeps its atmosphere, but Saturn is so massive that it manages to hold on to its hydrogen and helium gasses too. There’s kind of a tipping point between terrestrial planets that form in an area of the protostellar disk where there isn’t much gas (it having been pushed out by the Solar wind), and anyway not enough solid material (mostly water ice) to cause a heavy enough gravitational body to attract much gas. In the outer Solar system there were more ice (mass) and gas available because the Solar wind is and was gentler out there.

    That’s my perception of the traditional theory anyway. Exoplanet findings seem to challenge this.

    The hexagonal wind pattern is pretty well understood, and is observed on Earth too. It has to do with resonances and standing waves and complicated climate science. It is not a mystery. The hexagon shape comes from equilateral triangles, i.e. triangles with the same side lengths. Somehow that echoes through the atmosphere to form polar hexagons. (At least that’s what I’ve been told, maybe someone has pulled my leg, I can’t really tell)

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