Cassini Reveals Saturn's Cool Rings
The Cassini spacecraft has taken the most detailed temperature
measurements to date of Saturn's rings. Data taken by the composite
infrared spectrometer instrument on the spacecraft while entering
Saturn's orbit show the cool and relatively warm regions of the rings.
Image above: The varying temperatures of Saturn's rings are depicted in this false-color image from the Cassini spacecraft. This image represents the most detailed look to date at the temperature of Saturn's rings. + Full image and caption Image credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC/Ames.
This false-color image shows that the temperatures on the unlit side of
Saturn's rings vary from a relatively warm 110 Kelvin (-261 degrees
Fahrenheit, shown in red), to a cool 70 Kelvin (-333 degrees Fahrenheit,
shown in blue). The green represents a temperature of 90 Kelvin (-298
degrees Fahrenheit). Water freezes at 273 Kelvin (32 degrees
The data show that the opaque region of the rings, like the outer A ring
(on the far right) and the middle B ring, are cooler, while more
transparent sections, like the Cassini Division (in red just inside the
A ring) or the inner C ring (shown in yellow and red), are warmer.
Scientists had predicted this might be the case, because the opaque ring
areas would let less light through, and the transparent areas, more.
These results also show, for the first time, that individual ringlets in
the C ring and the Cassini Division are cooler than the surrounding,
more transparent regions.
The temperature data were taken on July 1, 2004, shortly after Saturn
orbit insertion. Cassini is so close to the planet that no pictures of
the unlit side of the rings are available, hence the temperature data
was mapped onto a picture of the lit side of the rings. Saturn is
overexposed and pure white in this picture. Saturn’s moon Enceladus is
visible below the rings, toward the center.
The composite infrared spectrometer, one of 12 instruments on Cassini,
will measure infrared emissions from atmospheres, rings and surfaces.
This spectrometer will create vertical profiles of temperature and gas
composition for the atmospheres of Titan and Saturn. During Cassini’s
four-year tour, the instrument will also gather information on the
thermal properties and composition of Saturn’s rings and icy moons.
Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space
Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a
division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages
the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science and Mission Directorate,
Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at
JPL. The Composite Infrared Spectrometer team is based at NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
For this image and for the latest news about the Cassini-Huygens
mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini
. For in-depth mission
information, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
. For more information on
the Composite Infrared Spectrometer, visit http://cirs.gsfc.nasa.gov
Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory