Hubble Views Saturn Ring-Plane Crossing
This sequence of images from the Hubble telescope documents a rare astronomical alignment: Saturn's magnificent ring system turned edge-on. This event occurs when the Earth passes through Saturn's ring plane, as it does about every 15 years.
In these pictures, Hubble can see details on Saturn as small as 450 miles (725 kilometers) across. In each image the dark band across Saturn is the ring shadow cast by the Sun, which is still slightly above the planet's ring plane. The bright dots to the left of Saturn and in the boxes to the right are some of the planet's moons. The boxes around the western portion of the rings [on the right] indicate the area in which the faint light from the rings has been enhanced through image processing to make the rings more visible.