From afar, Saturn's rings look like a solid, homogenous disk of material. But upon closer examination from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, we see that there are varied structures in the rings at almost every scale imaginable.
This illustration depicts potential origins of methane found in the plume of gas and ice particles that sprays from Saturn's moon, Enceladus, based on research by scientists working with the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer on NASA's Cassini mission.
Enceladus: Possible Hydrothermal Activity (Artist's Concept)
This cutaway view of Saturn's moon Enceladus is an artist's rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon's subsurface ocean, based on published results from NASA's Cassini mission.
The moon Iapetus, like the 'force' in Star Wars, has both a light side and a dark side. Scientists think that Iapetus' dark/light asymmetry was actually created by material migrating away from the dark side.
Named after a Japanese paradise, NASA's Cassini spacecraft spies the Senkyo region of Titan), a bit less welcoming than its namesake with a very inhospitable average temperature of approximately 290 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-180 degrees Celsius).
Presented here are side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) view, at left, and one made using a new technique for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan's surface, at right.
This montage from NASA's Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images of the surface of Titan shows four examples of how a newly developed technique for handling noise results in clearer, easier to interpret views.
These views from NASA's Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) present a side-by-side comparisons of a traditional view and one made using a new technique called despeckling for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan's surface.
Many color images are taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in red light so scientists can study the often subtle color variations of Saturn's rings. These variations may reveal clues about the chemical composition and physical nature of the rings.
This diagram depicts conditions observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a flyby in Dec. 2013, when Saturn's magnetosphere was highly compressed, exposing Titan to the full force of the solar wind.
Two masters of their craft are caught at work shaping Saturn's rings captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Pandora (upper right) sculpts the F ring. Meanwhile, Daphnis is busy holding open the Keeler gap (bottom center).
NASA's Cassini orbiter shows Saturn's main rings, seen here on their 'lit' face, appear much darker than normal. That's because they tend to scatter light back toward its source -- in this case, the Sun.
NASA's Cassini orbiter shows that Tethys appears to be peeking out from behind Rhea, watching the watcher. Scientists believe that Tethys' surprisingly high albedo is due to the water ice jets emerging from its neighbor, Enceladus.
NASA's Cassini orbiter shows that Enceladus (visible in the lower-left corner of the image) is but a speck before enormous Saturn, but even a small moon can generate big waves of excitement throughout the scientific community.
NASA's Cassini orbiter shows Saturn is circled by its rings (nearly edge-on in this image), as well as by the moons Tethys (the large bright body near the lower right corner) and Mimas (seen as a slight crescent against Saturn's disk above the rings).
Nature is an artist, and this time she seems to have let her paints swirl together a bit. What the viewer might perceive to be Saturn's surface captured by NASA's Cassini orbiter is really just the tops of its uppermost cloud layers.