A blue-tinted circular storm blemishes Saturn’s creamy complexion while wispy rings slice the planet with their shadows. This photo, shown in true color, was taken by Cassini’s wide-angle camera at an orbiting distance of 662,000 miles.
Saturn is mostly atmosphere, and a stormy one at that, made of hydrogen, helium and traces of ammonia and methane. High winds in excess of 300mph combine with heat generated from the interior to create powerful thunderstorms and hurricanes complete with lightning and rain. The bluish storm in this photo is more than 2,000 miles across.
Currently Saturn is angled so that its rings are on the same plane as its orbit around the sun, hence the shadow of the rings is merely a thin band. The transparency of the rings is clearly seen here…although they extend hundreds of thousands of miles, they are only 30 feet thick. It’s still not known for certain when and how they formed.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute