Saturn sings the blues

The ringed planet's northern latitudes appear a tranquil blue in new images shot by the Cassini spacecraft.
By | Published: February 10, 2005
February 10, 2005
Saturn has a case of the blues. Captured by the Cassini spacecraft, the new true-color images of the gas giant’s northern latitudes are a vivid blue.
Blue Saturn
Saturn’s northern hemisphere is presently a serene blue, more befitting of Uranus or Neptune, as seen in this image from Cassini.
NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute
Mimas and Saturn
Mimas drifts along in its orbit against the azure backdrop of Saturn’s northern latitudes in this true-color view. The long, dark lines on the atmosphere are shadows cast by the planet’s rings.
NASA/JPL / Space Science Institute
The first image was taken by Cassini’s wide-angle camera in December 2004 at a distance of 446,900 miles (719,200 kilometers) from the ringed planet. Showcasing Saturn’s northern polar region, shadows cast by rings litter the blue region, appearing like atmospheric bands. Shadows created by outer rings are at higher latitudes than those created by rings closer to Saturn, which fall closer to the equator. Clouds also are sprinkled against the azure backdrop.

While clouds are seen in this image, the relatively cloud-free makeup of Saturn’s northern hemisphere may create the blue color. Gases in Saturn’s upper atmosphere scatter blue light rays, which gives the northern latitudes their azure appearance. Cassini mission scientists may examine why these latitudes are cloud-free.

The second view caught Saturn’s icy moon Mimas crossing in front of the planet. Heavily crated, Mimas looks like a dented golf ball orbiting the planet. The satellite’s largest crater, Herschel, can’t be seen in this view. As with the other image, Saturn’s rings cast shadows on the backdrop. Cassini’s narrow-angle camera images were obtained in January 2005 from a distance of approximately 870,000 miles (1.4 million km) from the ringed planet.