NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is taking its final full lap around Saturn. In three days, Cassini will begin what NASA is calling “The Final Plunge.” While the spacecraft will meet a fiery end in less than a week, space fans around the world are enjoying a mind-blowing view of Saturn’s rings.
You’re looking at a piece of the inner-central part of Saturn’s B Ring. Here’s a diagram of Saturn’s rings to get your bearings.
The new image is a natural color composite put together with images taken with red, green and blue spectral filters according to NASA. That pale tan color isn’t something you typically see from your backyard telescope. Usually, it’s a shade of white unless you’re using some kind of filter.
Saturn’s famous rings still hold mysteries for scientists as they wrestle on what material gives the rings its pale tan hue. It’s a mystery Cassini might help solve long after its day of reckoning on September 15th.
It wouldn’t be a NASA image without a little enhanced color.
The red/blue contrast really helps show off the edges of each ringlet. You’re looking at areas that are spectrally redder (the red rings) mixed with areas that are less red (the blue rings). Combine images taken using infrared spectral filters and the areas that are redder are also rich in water ice.
Cassini was 47,000 miles away from these rings when it snapped the images on July 6th. It might look zoomed in, but the resolution is still only two miles per pixel.
Lucky for us, Cassini still has a few more days to hang around Saturn. And it’s last images could be the most stunning.
Image credits: NASA