Though Cassini only has a few days left to study Saturn before it dies, it’s seriously making them count. Yesterday, NASA released what it says are “the highest-resolution colour images of any part of Saturn’s rings”. In true Cassini fashion, they’re absolutely mesmerising.
The above image, taken on 6 July 2017, is a natural colour composite of a portion of Saturn’s B ring. At the time, Cassini was whirling 76,000km away from this region. According to NASA, it’s unclear what material gives the icy ringlets a beige hue, which is typically hard to detect since Saturn is a similar colour. It’s just one of those mysteries Cassini can hopefully help solve.
In this enhanced colour image of the same snapshot, areas that are spectrally redder are made to look, well, red, while areas with less red appear blue. This really helps you see how well-defined some of the ringlets are, especially the narrower ones toward the centre, which can get as small as just 40km in width. Apparently, the borders of these ringlets get fuzzier the closer they get to Saturn. I’m also pretty sure this is what Saturn would look like if it were featured on the cover of an ’80s alternative rock album:
Now here’s both the natural and false colour images just for fun:
Cassini’s D-day is September 15, which means we only have a couple of days to say goodbye. Hopefully we get a few last stunning glimpses of Saturn before the spacecraft goes out in a blaze of glory.