Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 2003 August 17 - Natural Saturn On The Cassini Cruise
Explanation: What could you see approaching Saturn aboard an interplanetary cruise ship? Your view would likely resemble this subtly shaded image of the gorgeous ringed gas giant. Processed by the Hubble Heritage project, the picture intentionally avoids overemphasizing color contrasts and presents a natural looking Saturn with cloud bands, storms, nearly edge-on rings, and the small round shadow of the moon Enceladus near the center of the planet's disk. Of course, seats were not available on the only ship currently en route, the Cassini spacecraft. Cassini flew by Jupiter at the turn of the millennium and is scheduled to arrive at Saturn in the year 2004. After an extended cruise to a world 1,400 million kilometers from the Sun, Cassini will tour the Saturnian system, conducting a remote, robotic exploration with software and instruments designed by denizens of planet Earth.
APOD: 2006 May 3 - Saturn in Blue and Gold
Explanation: Why is Saturn partly blue? The above picture of Saturn approximates what a human would see if hovering close to the giant ringed world. The above picture was taken in mid-March by the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Here Saturn's majestic rings appear directly only as a thin vertical line. The rings show their complex structure in the dark shadows they create on the image left. Saturn's fountain moon Enceladus, only about 500 kilometers across, is seen as the bump in the plane of the rings. The northern hemisphere of Saturn can appear partly blue for the same reason that Earth's skies can appear blue -- molecules in the cloudless portions of both planet's atmospheres are better at scattering blue light than red. When looking deep into Saturn's clouds, however, the natural gold hue of Saturn's clouds becomes dominant. It is not known why southern Saturn does not show the same blue hue -- one hypothesis holds that clouds are higher there. It is also not known why Saturn's clouds are colored gold.
APOD: 2004 July 23 - Saturns Rings in Natural Color
Explanation: What colors are Saturn's rings? Recent images from the Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn confirm that different rings have slightly different colors. The above image shows their sometimes-subtle differences in brightness and color. The rings reflect sunlight and so, even if they were perfectly reflecting, would appear the color of the Sun. The ring particles are mostly light water-ice, although these particles can be shaded by an unknown type of darker dirt. Thinner and more isolated rings also naturally appear darker. The brightest section pictured above is Saturn's B ring.
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& Michigan Tech. U.