Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2001 July 2
Explanation: Soon it will be winter in Saturn's northern hemisphere. Since Saturn is tilted in its orbit around the Sun, it has seasons just like the Earth. When a hemisphere is tilted so that the Sun passes more directly overhead, summer occurs. Half an orbit later -- about 15 (Earth) years for Saturn -- winter occurs. Since the rings of Saturn orbit the equator, they provide a quite graphic seasonal display. The Hubble Space Telescope took the above sequence of images about a year apart, starting on the lower left in 1996. Saturn's rings are less than 50 metres thick and are composed of pebble and boulder sized chunks of dusty water ice.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.