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LOOK: Cassini Captures Iconic Saturn Rings in New Photos

Nov 11, 2016 04:00 AM EST
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A stunning new photo by NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed the elaborate structure of Saturn's iconic rings. The rings of Saturn have charmed astronomers and stargazers for centuries.

The photo was taken on September 24 this year, when the aircraft is just about 283,000 miles from Saturn and positioned 4 degrees above the ring plane, Space.com reported.

According to NASA, the scientists are currently debating whether the Saturn rings have looked like that ever since or if their appearance has changed over time.

"The rings are made up of many smaller ringlets that blur together when seen from a distance. But when imaged up close, the rings' structures display quite a bit of variation. Ring scientists are debating the nature of these features - whether they have always appeared this way or if their appearance has evolved over time," NASA said.

Universe Today states that the rings are made up of dust, rock and ice accumulated from passing comets and meteorite impacting on Saturn's moons. The rings were formed as the planet's gravity pulled the materials from the moon. But a new study published this October revealed that the rings actually came from remains of dead dwarf planets that stayed too close to Saturn.

Saturn is not the only planet with a ring system. But its rings stand out because they are the largest and most brilliant. In addition, Space Daily said that observations show that Saturn's rings are made of more than 95% icy particles, while the rings of Uranus and Neptune are darker and may have higher rock content.

Cassini was launched in 1997 on a mission to examine Saturn and its many moons. The spacecraft originally arrived at Saturn with Huygens (lander), which was sent to the surface of Titan in 2004.

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