Astronomy Picture of the Day

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.

March 17, 1996

Saturn's Cloud Tops
Credit: Voyager 1, JPL, NASA

Explanation: This close-up of the tops of Saturn's clouds was taken by the Voyager 1 robot spacecraft as it passed the giant planet in November 1980. Saturn's clouds are mostly composed of hydrogen and helium gas, but the small addition of other elements gives the clouds their colors. These colors have been computer enhanced in the above photograph. Usually the clouds are divided into just bands and belt, but the center of this photograph shows the addition of a red oval cloud. The oval's origin remains a mystery, although its color indicates that its composition is slightly different than surrounding clouds. A new spacecraft - Cassini - will visit Saturn and is currently scheduled for launch in 1997.

Information: The Scale of the Universe Debate in April 1996
Tomorrow's picture: Saturn with Moons Tethys and Dione

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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