Dione in colour

Dione in colour

Colour image of Saturn's moon Dione obtained on 11 October 2005. In this image, Saturn can be seen in blue and gold behind Dione. The horizontal stripes in the lower half of Saturn's rings are clearly seen. At the time the image was taken, Cassini was nearly level with Saturn's rings. Blue, green and infrared spectral filters were used to obtain this image. It was taken with the Wide Field Camera on board the Cassini spacecraft at a distance of approximately 39,000 kilometres from Dione. The image resolution is about two kilometres per pixel.

Image 1/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Titan and Epimetheus

Ti­tan and Epimetheus

Cassini delivers this stunning vista showing small, battered Epimetheus and smog-enshrouded Titan, with Saturn's A and F rings stretching across the scene. The colour information in the coloured view is completely artificial: it is derived from red, green and blue images taken at nearly the same time and phase angle as the clear filter image. This colour information was overlaid onto the previously released clear filter view in order to approximate the scene as it might appear to the human eye.

Image 2/18, Credit: NASA/JPL /University of Arizona/Space Science Institute
The rings - Saturn's trademark

The rings - Sat­urn's trade­mark

The rings -Saturn's trademark. The beautiful and mysterious rings of Saturn are one of the most striking phenomena in our Solar System. They have a diameter of nearly 500,000 kilometres and are also extremely thin. Billions of swirling ice and rock particles orbit the planet at great speed, forming an intricate pattern. The image shows a bright band of the isolated C-rings (inside) and the B-rings to the left. Scientists still don't know the age or origin of the rings but the Cassini mission at least provided an insight. On its arrival in July 2004, the spacecraft transmitted valuable data. High-resolution images were obtained during its pass through the ring plane, a cross-sectional profile was made using ultraviolet and infrared measurements ​and infrared images were obtained. Cassini discovered previously unknown smaller rings and moons in the single ring nearby. The rings are composed mainly of water ice, rocks and dust, whose main ingredients are mineral silicates. With the spectrometer VIMS (Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer), traces of iron were detected. This corresponds to the material, present in the dark areas of the moons Phoebe and Iapetus; VIMS also found evidence of organic carbon-nitrogen compounds in the rings.

Image 3/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn’s cloud cover with a shadow cast by the rings

Sat­urn’s cloud cov­er with a shad­ow cast by the rings

This image shows part of Saturn’s northern hemisphere in false colour. This brings out the separate bands and swirls of clouds in the atmosphere of the high northern latitudes of the gas planet more clearly. It also shows that with regard to their dynamics and to the chemical composition of Saturn’s upper atmosphere, the northern latitudes are markedly different from the rather more monotonous equatorial zone, which appears in bright, bluish tones in the lower right quadrant of the image. In the lower left quadrant you can see Saturn’s innermost rings as very thin lines; as the Sun is shining obliquely from beneath the ring plane, the shadows of the rings are projected onto Saturn’s cloud cover as clear-cut lines. The image was recorded using Cassini’s Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) from an angle of 52 degrees above the ring plane and at a distance of 1.5 million kilometres.

Image 4/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Iapetus is one of Saturn’s most mysterious moons: this icy moon with a diameter of 1468 kilometres presents the observer with two hemispheres that have developed in completely different ways. The hemisphere facing the opposite direction of the moon’s orbit around Saturn, the so-called “trailing side”, as well as the polar areas, consist of white ice and reflect the light of the Sun almost 100 percent; on the surface of the hemisphere facing the direction of orbit, the so-called “leading side”, however, carbon compounds cover the ice – cyanide and other carbon compounds make the surface as black as tar. This false-colour image shows the first mosaic of high-resolution image data from bright side of Iapetus; it consists of 60 separate images, which were recorded in September 2007 from a distance of 73 000 kilometres. This flyby had been planned in great detail by staff members of the Freie Universität Berlin and DLR. The transition zone between both extremes is especially interesting. Decisive explanatory information about the cause of Iapetus’ strange characteristics has been provided not only by the image data from Cassini, but also through observations performed with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Beyond the orbit of Iapetus, Saturn is surrounded by a giant torus of tiny, dark dust particles, inclined at 27 degrees to the equator and the main ring plane. The particles originate from impacts on the small moons of Saturn that orbit further out than Iapetus, such as Phoebe, whose orbit lies in the middle of the torus. The density of the particles is extremely low, yet high enough for some of the small particles that migrate towards the interior of the Saturn system are attracted by the leading side of Iapetus and, over a long periodof time, have been collected and compacted into a thin, black layer.

Image 5/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


At 5150 kilometres across, Titan is the second largest moon in the Solar System and one of the most mysterious. An atmosphere surrounds many planets. Titan, however, is the only moon in the Solar System with a significant gaseous envelope. The atmosphere is a brownish-orange and so dense that the moon’s surface cannot be seen at visible light wavelengths. Only by using what are known as 'atmospheric windows' – narrow wavelength bands in the near and middle infrared is analysis of the surface possible. This technique is used by the infrared spectrometer VIMS (Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer) on the Cassini space probe, which has been analysing the Saturnian system since July 2004. Because of the distance of Titan from the Sun, its surface temperature is about minus 180 degrees Celsius. The picture shows a superposition of VIMS images of Titan in three different infrared wavelengths: 1.3 microns (thousandths of a millimetre, blue),) 2 microns (green) and 5 microns (red). The circular structure in the middle is probably an older impact basin. Titan's equatorial latitudes are most likely dry areas, without extensive 'water'. The numerous liquid bodies in the northern hemisphere, one of which is described in this web article, the Kraken Mare, are probably part of an active fluid circulation. These lakes are fed by liquid hydrocarbons that a drainage system carries out of the surrounding valleys. The drainage system, in turn, is fed by methane and ethane precipitation. Many scientists suspect that the nitrogen atmosphere of Titan exhibits strong similarities with Earth's primitive atmosphere.

Image 6/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Titan at 10 kilometres

Ti­tan at 10 kilo­me­tres

This image was obtained by assembling 30 frames captured with the European Huygens probe during its descent through Titan's atmosphere. They were made from altitudes between 13 and eight kilometres, as the spacecraft approached its landing site. The images have a resolution of about 20 metres per pixel and represent an area of about 30 kilometres. During the descent phase through Titan's atmosphere, the Huygens probe dropped almost vertically downward with a speed of about five meters per second. Huygens drifted horizontally at a speed of about one metre per second.

Image 7/18, Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Saturn and Rhea

Sat­urn and Rhea

This image of Saturn (in the foreground) and Rheawas obtained on 3 February 2006 with a camera onboard the Cassini spacecraft from about 4.1 million kilometres from Saturn and 4.6 million kilometres from Saturn's moon Rhea.

Image 8/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Ice volcanoes on Enceladus

Ice vol­ca­noes on Ence­ladus

At only 500 kilometres in diameter, the Saturnian moon Enceladus does not have sufficient mass to allow enough heat to be generated in its interior to melt the ice in its mantle. However, the Cassini spacecraft discovered fissures on this small icy moon that eject hundred-kilometre high fountains of water into the vacuum of space. The droplets freeze immediately and most fall back onto the icy surface, but some also feed Saturn’s outer rings. Enceladus appears to gain enough energy to produce reservoirs of melted ice under its icy crust from the action of tidal forces exerted by Saturn, its 120,000-kilometre diameter gas giant host planet. Under high pressure, this water is discharged into space through prominent systems of fissures at the South Pole – a form of volcanic activity referred to as ice volcanism or cryovolcanism, as opposed to the magmatic volcanism seen on Earth.

Image 9/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn rings

Sat­urn rings

Image of Saturn's rings. For the first time we are able to see the B-ring, which had, until now, eluded the spacecraft's view. The structure of the B-ring is greatly distinguishable from its two neighbors, the A and C-ring. This photograph of Saturn's rings was obtained on 3 May 2005, when the Cassini spacecraft was visible from the Earth behind Saturn's rings. Cassini sent radio signals to Earth through the ring system. The researchers were then able to measure how strongly the signal was affected as it passed through the rings. The denser a ring is, the weaker the received signal. This experiment will allow scientists to determine the distribution of ring material and the size of the particles in the rings. The purple areas indicate regions of the recording, in which there are no particles smaller than five centimetres. The green and blue areas indicate regions containing particles smaller than five and one centimetre. The wide, white area near the centre is the densest region of the B ring. The origin of Saturn's ring system is still a mystery. It consists of thousands of individual rings. Measured from one side to the other, the ring system is wider than the distance between Earth and Moon. The seven main rings of Saturn are named in order of discovery and not by their distance to the planet. Starting from Saturn, they are referred to as D, C​​, B​​, A, F, G and E rings.

Image 10/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Titan's upper atmosphere in ultraviolet

Ti­tan's up­per at­mo­sphere in ul­tra­vi­o­let

Titan's upper atmosphere in ultraviolet. Several dust layers are easily recognizable.

Image 11/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Jupiter's South Pole

Jupiter's South Pole

This coloured cylindrical map of Jupiter's South Pole was constructed from images taken by the narrow-angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft on 11 and 12 December 2000, as the spacecraft neared Jupiter during its flyby of the giant planet. Cassini was on its way to Saturn. They are the most detailed global colour maps of Jupiter ever produced. The smallest visible features are about 120 kilometres across. The map is composed of 36 images. Although the raw images are in just two colours, 750 nanometres (near-infrared) and 451 nanometres (blue), the map's colours are close to those the human eye would see when gazing at Jupiter. The maps show a variety of colourful cloud features, including parallel reddish-brown and white bands, the Great Red Spot, chaotic regions with many small vortices. Many clouds appear in streaks and waves due to continual stretching and folding by Jupiter's winds and turbulence.

Image 12/18, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Saturn's subtle spectrum

Sat­urn's sub­tle spec­trum

Dreamy colours ranging from pale rose to butterscotch to sapphire give this utterly inhospitable gas planet a romantic appeal. Shadows of the rings caress the northern latitudes whose blue colour is presumed to be a seasonal effect. Enceladus (505 kilometers across) hugs the ringplane right of center. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this colour view, which approximates what the human eye would see. The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on 16 March, 2006 at a distance of approximately 2.1 million kilometers from Saturn. Image scale is 120 kilometers per pixel on Saturn.

Image 13/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn's glowing F-ring

Sat­urn's glow­ing F-ring

The glowing arc of light in this image is the icy F-ring. Saturn's moon Rhea (1528 kilometers across) can be seen in the background, illuminated by the reflected light of both Saturn and its rings. Only the narrow strip of light at the lower edge of the moon arrives directly from the Sun. This picture was taken on 30 October 2005 by the narrow-angle camera onboard Cassini from a distance of approximately 689 000 kilometres. The resolution of the image is about four kilometres per pixel.

Image 14/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Surface of Saturn's moon Rhea

Sur­face of Sat­urn's moon Rhea

The surface of Saturn's second-largest moon Rhea consists predominantly of water ice and is marked by countless impact craters. One remarkably bright, probably younger crater is one of the goals for the camera and the spectrometer during the Cassini fly-by on 27 November 2005.

Image 15/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn's cloud lanes

Sat­urn's cloud lanes

The Cassini spacecraft captures the ripples, loops and storms that swirl in Saturn's east-west flowing cloud bands. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 728 nanometres. The view was obtained on 13 December 2006 at a distance of approximately 775,000 kilometres from Saturn. Image scale is 43 kilometres per pixel.

Image 16/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


On 17 February 2005, Cassini performed its first close flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus at a distance of about 1180 kilometres, obtaining this image of the moon's surface. Enceladus is one of the most reflective objects in our Solar System; its surface is reminiscent of freshly fallen snow. Cassini came closer to Enceladus than any other spacecraft. This image shows a portion of the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. It was taken from a distance of about 29,640 kilometres with the narrow angle camera on Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem. The spatial resolution of the image is 170 metres per pixel.

Image 17/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn in colour

Sat­urn in colour

Saturn in colour, photographed on 27 March 2004 with JPL's camera system on board the Cassini spacecraft.

Image 18/18, Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Cassini-Huygens: A journey to Saturn and its moons.

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