NASA's Hubble telescope recently captured some mind-blowing images during summer in Saturn's northern hemisphere. In these latest snapshots, Saturn looks like a 'lord of rings'. In the images, one can see a light reddish shade on the northern hemisphere of the planet. It is expected that the color composition might be a result of heat due to increased sunlight.
In an official press release issued on Thursday, NASA said, "Hubble's crisp view shows multiple banded cloud activity warmed increasingly by direct sunlight."
Interestingly, two of Saturn's icy moons are clearly visible in this exposure: Mimas at right, and Enceladus at the bottom.
NASA informed that the image was captured as a part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project.
According to NASA, the banding in the northern hemisphere remains pronounced as seen in Hubble's 2019 observations, with several bands slightly changing color from year to year. The ringed planet's atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium with traces of ammonia, methane, water vapor, and hydrocarbons that give it a yellowish-brown color.
Lead investigator of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, d Amy Simon mentioned, "It's amazing that even over a few years, we're seeing seasonal changes on Saturn."
The rings of Saturn are mostly made of pieces of ice, with sizes ranging from tiny grains to giant boulders. How and when the rings formed still remains one of our solar system's biggest mysteries. Conventional wisdom is that they are as old as the planet, over 4 billion years. But because the rings are so bright – like freshly fallen snow – a competing theory is that they may have formed during the age of the dinosaurs.