The wealth of scientific data available on Saturn has enabled us to construct a detailed three-dimensional model of this object.

The details of the clouds changes from day to day, but the general structure remains similar from year to year. The cloud patterns used for this model were based on a map originally made by Björn Jónsson, who combined data from the Voyager spacecraft with Hubble Space Telescope images to produce a realistic rendering. The map has then been projected onto an oblate spheroid to reproduce Saturn’s distinctive flattened shape.

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The full structure of the rings of Saturn as revealed in images obtained by the Cassini spacecraft, which have been used to construct an accurate model for these structures. The nomenclature for the major components and gaps is annotated. (Original image from NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute). 

The structure of the rings was quantitatively derived by sampling a full-resolution panoramic imaging dataset from the Cassini spacecraft. One complication in this analysis is that the scattering properties of the particles from which the rings are formed means that their appearance changes significantly with the wavelength at which they are observed, and depends dramatically on whether they are illuminated from the front or the back. For this model, the density of the rings has been optimized to reproduce their appearance accurately when front-illuminated with optical light.

Other details such as the F Ring’s shepherding moons, Pandora and Prometheus, and the moon Pan in the Encke gap, have also been included in the sculpture of Saturn produced from this modelling.

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