With its halo of rings and its honey colouring, Saturn is arguably the most photogenic planet in our Solar System. Now, NASA’s Saturn orbiter Cassini has sent back some of the most spectacular images yet of this graceful gas giant and its largest moon, Titan.
The above image, taken using Cassini's high-resolution camera system, shows Titan passing in front of its planetary host. Saturn’s blue and butterscotch colours result from the planet’s seasonal changes as it orbits the Sun. When Cassini first arrived eight years ago, Saturn’s wintery northern hemisphere was an azure blue. Today, though, summer is coming to the north, and the rising intensity in UV radiation is increasing the yellowy haze here. On the other hand, winter in the south is helping to clear the haze, bringing a bluish tint to this region.
However, it’ll be another five years before the south experiences its winter solstice. A Saturnian year lasts over 29 times longer than an Earth year, so this planet takes much longer to cycle through its seasons.
Here are some more of the stunning new Cassini images:
All images courtesy of ASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI