Saturn’s cool rings

The Cassini spacecraft captures the most detailed temperature measurements to date of Saturn's rings.
By | Published: September 3, 2004 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Cool rings of Saturn
The varying temperatures of Saturn’s rings are depicted in this false-color image from the Cassini spacecraft. This image represents the most detailed look to date at the temperature of Saturn’s rings.
NASA / JPL / GSFC / Ames
September 3, 2004
Shortly after the Cassini spacecraft entered Saturn orbit, it captured this close-up look at ring temperatures. The composite infrared spectrometer, one of 12 onboard instruments, gathered the data shown in this false-color image. Red areas are relatively warm at -261° Fahrenheit (-163° Celsius), green represents -298° F (-183° C), and blue -333° F (-203° C).

As scientists predicted, because less light shines through opaque regions like the outermost A ring, these areas are cooler than more transparent areas like the inner C ring. This image also shows, for the first time, the individual ringlets and the Cassini Division are cooler than surrounding areas.

During Cassini’s 4-year tour through the saturnian system, this spectrometer will measure infrared emissions from the rings as well as from the surface and atmosphere of Saturn and its largest moon, Titan.