NASA is ringing in the New Year with some beautiful photos that Cassini has taken of Saturn. The photo at the top of the story shows shadows on the surface of Saturn cast by the network of rings around the planet. Note the slight blue hue on the bottom of Saturn in the image.
That slight blue coloration is believed to be caused by a drop in ultraviolet sunlight and a corresponding reduction in the haze produced. That picture was taken by Cassini on July 29, 2013. It was released to the public for the first time on December 23.
The second photo here is a natural color image of Saturn taken in a wide angle view by Cassini. The picture illustrates the hexagonal characteristic of the northern jet stream on Saturn. This particular picture was taken on July 22 and released on December 23.
Cassini has helped scientists learn a great deal about Saturn and its moons. Cassini’s main mission will continue through at least 2017, assuming funding doesn’t get cut before then. After its mission ends, Cassini will be decommissioned with a controlled fall through Saturn’s atmosphere.