September 20, 2011

Today’s Cool Photo of the Week is a detailed image of Saturn’s rings, captured by the Hubble Telescope, using ultraviolet light. The rings are made up of many small particles of ice, with some dust and small bits of rock, that have formed into clumps and orbit around Saturn. Some of the particles are as small as your fingernail; others are bigger than a car! Seen from afar, they blend together and appear to be rings around the giant planet. 

Saturn is the second biggest planet in our solar system, after Jupiter. How big is Saturn? About 75 Earths could fit inside of Saturn. Although it is not the only planet with rings (Uranus and Neptune have rings, too), Saturn’s rings are the largest and most visible.  

This image of Saturn was taken when the planet’s rings were at their maximum tilt of 27 degrees toward us. Saturn experiences seasonal tilts away from and toward the sun, much the same way Earth does, over the course of its 29.5-year orbit. That means that every 30 years, we Earth observers can catch our best glimpse of Saturn’s south pole and the southern side of the planet’s rings. 

Isn’t this a magnificent image of Saturn?


Photo: NASA and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)

Look for a digital version of my book SATURN, coming out as a Read and Listen™ eBook later this year.




Posted by: Seymour Simon

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