NASAâ€™s Cassini spacecraft has made it a habit of snapping gorgeous photos of Saturnâ€™s rings, but it has absolutely outdone itself with the latest batch of images.
Currently in its â€œRing-Grazingâ€ orbits phaseâ€”something that begun last Novemberâ€”Cassiniâ€™s newest photos are twice the level of detail as had been observed before. Theyâ€™re so dense and detailed scientists are able to see features known as â€œstrawâ€ and â€œpropellers;â€ NASA says a â€œstrawâ€ is an accumulation of density waves, which are filled with clumpy perturbations.
Upon arriving at Saturn in 2004, Cassini was able to snap photos that were described as â€œscientifically stunning.â€ The problem, however, was Cassini snapped the images when the rings were backlit using shorter exposure times, resulting in pictures that were dark and noisy.
The latest images were taken in both the backlit and sunlit side of the rings, according to NASA, allowing Cassini to snap pictures in â€œunprecedented detail.â€
â€œAs the person who planned those initial orbit-insertion ring imagesâ€”which remained our most detailed views of the rings for the past 13 yearsâ€”I am taken aback by how vastly improved are the details in this new collection,â€ said Cassini Imaging Team Lead Carolyn Porco. â€œHow fitting it is that we should go out with the best views of Saturnâ€™s rings weâ€™ve ever collected.â€