Status Report

Hubble Movie: Saturn aand Rings Tipped Edge-on Toward Earth

By SpaceRef Editor
April 1, 2007
Filed under , , ,
Hubble Movie:  Saturn aand Rings Tipped Edge-on Toward Earth


This time-lapse sequence shows the moons Titan and Tethys orbiting Saturn when the planet’s rings were tilted nearly edge-on toward Earth. This edge-on alignment happens once every 15 years. The last time this alignment occurred was in 1995 and 1996.

In the movie, the moons can easily be seen because the rings are so thin. Titan and Tethys follow the rings’ thin line in their orbit around Saturn. But Titan’s shadow is the first to make an appearance, moving across Saturn’s disk. Then Titan appears. As Titan makes its trek across the disk, Tethys appears on the left from behind the planet. It disappears quickly off the screen as it makes its circular path around Saturn. These moons seem to move much faster than they actually do because several hours of viewing time were compressed to make this movie.

The movie also shows the bands of clouds that make up Saturn’s atmosphere. This banded structure is similar to Jupiter’s. A thick haze covers the clouds.

The 15-second movie is based on Hubble images taken over a 10½-hour span. The images were taken Aug. 6, 1995 with Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

Credit: NASA, ESA, E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona) and G. Bacon (STScI)

SpaceRef staff editor.