Saturn, the sixth planet from our sun, might be the easiest heavenly body to remember. Whether one is a first grader or a scientist, Saturn produces the same jaw-dropping wow reaction when someone sees its images, especially of its rings. On October 10, the Cassini spacecraft of NASA that has been orbiting Saturn for almost a decade, took 36 shots and gave people back home a good reason to be in awe.
Saturn's Mysterious Hexagon
One of the most fascinating images of the set captured, is the hexagonal storm on the north pole of Saturn. The region is roughly 15,000 miles across, good enough to fit four Earths inside. Cassini usually shows the storm in shades of red or other false colors such as orange and green. The image was processed to show the true colors of the region.
"This composite image will be part of a large Saturn mosaic I am currently working on for 'In Saturn's Rings.' The mosaic will feature most of Saturn's globe, a shadow cast on the rings from the planet, and entire hexagon," explained Val Klavans, image processor also working on the said film project, in an email exchange with NBC News.
View from the Top
Cassini also checked out the ringed-planet from the top, about 935,000 miles away to be precise. The NASA spacecraft used red, blue, and green filters when it took 12 shots from its perspective. Gordan Ugarkovic, an image processor from Croatia and long-time follower of the Cassini-Huygens mission, processed the images and created a mosaic that shows the approximate true color of the images on one footprint.
Although Ugarkovic did not geometrically correct the image for shifts that occurred in between shots, it is still a an impressive image that earned praises from stargazing-loving public. It shows the planet casting a big shadow on its rings as well as the separation of the A ring from the B ring by what is known as the Cassini Division.
"Saturn is so beautiful that it would be next to impossible to pick what would be my favorite picture of it ever. Impossible until now. Because HOLY HALEAKALA Croatian software developer and "amateur" astronomical image processor Gordan Ugarkovic has created a picture of Saturn so stunning words fail me," said Phil Plate of the blog Slate.
The Cassini-Huygens mission lifted from Earth in 1997 and started orbiting the ringed planet in 2004.