Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Color Composite of Saturn using Methane filters

Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / composite by Errol Coder
The Cassini spacecraft takes numerous images of the Saturn system, including the moons, Saturn's rings, and the planet itself using a camera with two filter wheels. In this image we are edge on with Saturn's rings, you are viewing Saturn where the Sun is positioned just above its rings, and you see them silhouetted onto the surface of Saturn's atmosphere.

The narrower ring is called the narrow ring is the A-ring, the narrow gap is the Cassini division, and the wider ring is the B ring. The C-ring lies beyond the B-ring, but is too faint to be captured in this image. There is also the vary narrow F-ring on the outer edge of Saturn's rings, just beyond the A-ring that also can not be seen. See that white dot on the far left of the ring? Guess what? That is perhaps the moon Enceladus which Cassini is little over 6 days from doing a fly-by of.

This a composite of images taken using Cassini's BL1, MT2 "methane", and MT3 "methane" filters. These methane filters are using Infra-red light. This is considered to be a false color image as we are seeing Saturn using the Methane filters. This allows us to see the atmosphere in detail. You can see the great variation in color contrast between the white, light orange, and darker orange material. What stands out for me is Saturn's rings. We are seeing it edge on. But, using these filters, it comes out as a bright blue, rather then a similar coloring to Saturn's atmosphere. This may be due to the excess of ice, methane and other material in the rings.

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