Astronomy Picture of the Day

Neon Saturn

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Neon Saturn

If seen in the right light, Saturn glows like a neon sign.

Although Saturn has comparatively little of the
element neon, a
composite image
false-colored in three bands of
infrared light highlights features of the giant ringed planet like a
glowing sign.

At the most blue band of the infrared light featured, false-colored blue in the
above image,
Saturn itself appears dark but
Saturn's thin rings brightly reflect light from our Sun.

Saturn's B ring
is so thick that little reflected light makes it through, creating a dark band between
Saturn's A and C rings.

At the most red band of the infrared, false-colored red above,
Saturn emits a surprisingly detailed
thermal glow,
indicating planet-wide bands, huge hurricane-like storms, and a
strange hexagon-shaped cloud system around the
North Pole.

In the middle infrared band, false-colored green,
the sunlit side of Saturn's atmosphere reflects brightly.

The above image
was obtained in late February by the
Cassini spacecraft
orbiting about 1.6 million kilometers out from Saturn.

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