Amazing what a mere collection of water and ice and a few rocks can turn into. Saturn's rings are one of the most incredible sights in the night sky, and in space overall. Though their make up is unremarkable, since the 1970s when the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft visited the system and gave us our first close-up look.
What's more amazing is that unlike many other celestial bodies in our universe, that we need to physically reach in order to get a clear picture of, Saturn is close enough that we can get images like those below.
Hubble has a great advantage over probes, because though it may be farther away, it is able to periodically track and photograph a planet, and observe them over much longer periods than a flyby that is a one-off.
The reason the image is particularly bright, is that Saturn recently passed closer than it ever had to Earth, illuminating the planet and offering us a look at it through the Hubble that is a rare find.
The Hubble also managed to catch the moons of Saturn while in their orbit. Tethys, Janus, Mimas, Enceladus and Rhea are the 5 moons of Saturn, with Rhea having the largest and most extreme of the orbits.
Like an Oblong Merry-Go-Round
Hexagonal Storm... What?
This storm was first noticed in 1981, and was continually photographed on top of the northern pole of Saturn, which is believed to be made up of ammonia ice. It has been one of Saturn's most striking features for decades. Four Earths could comfortably fit inside the hexagonal storm, and more interestingly there is no counterpart at the planet's Southern pole.
Aerial of the Hexagonal Storm
This is a real image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft as it passed by Saturn in 2004. The hexagonal-shaped storm looks even more amazing from above. Scientists are unsure if it is a strangely shaped storm, or a massive tower of the aforementioned ammonia ice with a huge storm within it. The jury is out for now, at least until we can reach the planet's surface.
New Images With Surprising Changes
The new images revealed an interesting development with Saturn. The famous storm had disappeared in the images from 2019. Though storms in that shape form there all the time, it will be interesting to see what images we get from Saturn in 2020.
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