Saturn's Rings as the Sun Sets Behind the Ring Plane

Saturn's Rings as the Sun Sets Behind the Ring Plane

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Fast Facts
News release ID: STScI-1996-18
Release Date: Apr 26, 1996
Image Use: Copyright
About this image

This is a rare view of Saturn's rings seen just after the Sun has set below the ring plane, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope on Nov. 21, 1995.

This perspective is unusual because the Earth is slightly above (2.7 degrees latitude) Saturn's rings and the Sun is below them. Normally we see the rings fully illuminated by the Sun.

The photograph shows three bright ring features: the F Ring, the Cassini Division, and the C Ring (moving from the outer rings to the inner). The low concentration of material in these rings allows light from the Sun to shine through them. The A and B rings are much denser, which limits the amount of light that penetrates through them. Instead, they are faintly visible because they reflect light from Saturn's disk.

Scientists believe that the F Ring is slightly warped because it disappears part way around on the right (West) side. Hubble's high resolution shows the that A Ring's shadow obscures part of the F ring (right).

The image was assembled from 20 exposures taken with Wide Field Planetary Camera-2 over 8 hours.

Observations, Planetary Rings, Planets, Saturn, Solar System


Credit: Phil Nicholson (Cornell University), Steve Larson (University of Arizona) and NASA