Saturn in Colour
Saturn and its rings completely fill the field of view of Cassini's narrow angle camera in this natural colour image taken on 27 March 2004. This is the last single 'eyeful' of Saturn and its rings achievable with the narrow angle camera on approach to the planet. From now until orbit insertion, the rings will be larger than the camera's field of view. The image is a composite of three exposures in red, green, and blue, taken when the spacecraft was 47.7 million kilometres from the planet. The image scale is 286 kilometres per pixel.
Colour variations between atmospheric bands and features in the southern hemisphere of the planet, as well as subtle colour differences across Saturn's middle B ring, are now more distinct than ever. Colour variations generally imply different compositions. The nature and causes of any compositional differences in both the atmosphere and the rings are major questions to be investigated by Cassini scientists as the mission progresses.
The bright blue sliver of light in the northern hemisphere is sunlight passing through the Cassini Division in Saturn's rings and being scattered by the cloud-free upper atmosphere.
Two faint dark spots are visible in the southern hemisphere. These spots are close to the latitude where Cassini saw two storms merging in mid-March. The fate of the storms visible here is unclear. They are getting close and will eventually merge or squeeze past each other. Further analysis of such dynamic systems in Saturn's atmosphere will help scientists understand their origins and complex interactions.
Moons visible in this image are (clockwise from top right): Enceladus (499 kilometres across), Mimas (398 kilometres across), Tethys (1060 kilometres across), and Epimetheus (116 kilometres across). Epimetheus is dim and appears just above the left edge of the rings. Brightnesses have been exaggerated to aid visibility.