The image seen below is a new shot of Saturn taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in early July 2020. The image is so crisp that it almost looks like an artist rendering, but NASA assures it’s an actual image of the ringed planet. We can see the concentric ring structure around the planet in detail.
NASA reminds us that the ring structure around Saturn is composed of chunks of ice ranging from the size of specks of dust to giant boulders. The image was snapped by Hubble on July 4, 2020, when Saturn was 839 million miles from Earth. The image also shows summertime in the planet’s northern hemisphere.
The image also shows several small atmospheric storms that are transient and come and go each year when Hubble observes the planet. The pronounced banding in the northern hemisphere of the planet remains and is nearly identical to what Hubble observed in 2019. NASA does point out that several bands sightly change color from year-to-year.
Saturn has an atmosphere composed mostly of hydrogen and helium with traces of ammonia, methane, water vapor, and hydrocarbons giving it a yellow-brown color. Some may note a slightly red haze over the northern hemisphere of the planet. Scientists believe that haze may be caused by heating from increased sunlight, which could change the atmospheric circulation or possibly remove ices from aerosols in the atmosphere.
Astronomers also say the cause of the red haze could potentially be that increased sunlight during summer changes the amount of photochemical haze produced. Interestingly, the southern hemisphere of the planet peeking out slightly beneath the rings has a noted blue tinge that indicates changes in winter weather. Two of Saturn’s moons are visible in the picture with Mimas on the right and Enceladus at the bottom.