Close up of the rings of Saturn, 1981.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 29cm x 32cm

Close up of the rings of Saturn, 1981.

© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society


Taken from the Voyager 2 spacecraft. This colour-enhanced image of the rings illustrates their complex structure and 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.

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