Saturnian Symmetry

With more than a decade of observations, the Cassini spacecraft has redefined our understanding of the ringed giant Saturn and its diverse moons.  Continually working and returning new data, it has achieved significant scientific milestones, along with it’s partner probe Huygens, which dropped down through the thick clouds of mighty moon Titan’s atmosphere in early 2005.  Along with a new scientific understanding comes views never-before-seen by human eyes, revealing the artful dance between the gas giant, its moons, and its incredible ring system.  One of my favourite photos shows the incredibly beautiful symmetry of the rings.

Symmetrical perfection revealed by Cassini. Credit: NASA-JPL / Cassini

The rotational symmetry in this overhead portrait looks like the work of a master artist, instead of a natural consequence of gravity.  But the artistry of nature and the perfection of the 1/r2 law of gravity shows the changing features as we move radially from the centre of the planet right out through the rings.

Cassini continues to study the giant world, and will be achieving new milestones in the nearby future, such as continuing fly-bys of the giant moons, and a dive through the rings where the craft will use it’s antenna as a shield from ring particles.

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