Saturn’s Rings Real Color

Although reflection from the rings increases Saturn’s brightness, they are not visible from Earth with unaided vision. In 1610, the year after Galileo Galilei turned a telescope to the sky, he became the first person to observe Saturn’s rings, though he could not see them well enough to discern their true nature. In 1655, Christiaan Huygens was the first person to describe them as a disk surrounding Saturn. Although many people think of Saturn’s rings as being made up of a series of tiny ringlets (a concept that goes back to Laplace), true gaps are few. It is more correct to think of the rings as an annular disk with concentric local maxima and minima in density and brightness. On the scale of the clumps within the rings there is much empty space.

However, Dr. Thomas explained to the press in May 2013 that the ring arcs are much more tenuous than the fully formed rings of Saturn. As a matter of fact, the ring arcs are so delicate and thin that it would take about ten billion years for just 1 meter of blowing icy snow to collect within the craters of Methone. The original goal of Cassini-Huygens was to study Saturn and its large, misty, tortured, moon Titan. Titan, the second-largest moon in our Solar System, after Ganymede of Jupiter, is a world long-shrouded in mystery, hiding behind a thick orange veil, and slashed with hydrocarbon lakes and seas. However, there are other enticing moons known to circle the ringed planet. Saturn's mid-sized icy moons (Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Phoebe) are enchanting worlds. Each one of these frozen little moons reveals an interesting and unique geology. So far, Saturn is known to sport 62 icy moons! Similarly, in Norse mythology, Mani is the male personification of the Moon. Mani wanders across the sky in a horse and carriage, perpetually pursued by the Great Wolf Hati who catches him at Ragnarok--which is the "Twilight of the Gods," and the end of everything, in Norse mythology--that is, until it all begins anew.