The rings of Saturn, 1981.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
Taken from the Voyager 2 spacecraft. This colour-enhanced image of the rings exaggerates the colour variations which are thought to be due to chemical differences. The rings are composed of ice and ice-coated dust and rock. Their origin and formation are not precisely understood, but it seems that tidal effects caused by some of Saturn's moons play a role in maintaining their structure. The ring system is 250,000 kilometres in diameter, but les than 1 kilometre thick. The two Voyager spacecraft were launched by NASA in 1977 to explore the planets in the outer solar system. After first visiting Jupiter, Voyager 2 pased Saturn in August 1981, before continuing on to Uranus and Neptune.