Saturn's rings, 21 June 2004.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
Nine days before it entered orbit, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this exquisite natural colour view of Saturn's rings. The images were obtained from a vantage point beneath the ring plane with the narrow angle camera, at a distance of 4 million miles from Saturn. The brightest part of the rings, curving from the upper right to the lower left in the image, is the B ring. Many bands throughout the B ring have a pronounced sandy colour. Saturn's rings are made primarily of water ice. Since pure water ice is white, it is believed that different colours in the rings reflect different amounts of contamination by other materials such as rock or carbon compounds. With the help of Cassini's other instruments, scientists will try to determine what the different parts of Saturn's rings are made of.