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The Bruce Murray Space Image Library

Pioneer 11 approaches Saturn

Filed under pretty pictures, amateur image processing, Pioneer 10 and 11, global views, Saturn, Saturn's rings

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Pioneer 11 approaches Saturn On approach to Saturn on September 1, 1979, Pioneer 11 gazed on the unlit northern face of the rings. Cassini viewed Saturn at similar season in early February 2009.

NASA / Data from NASA Ames / processing © Ted Stryk, Roane State CC

Original image data dated on or about September 1, 1979.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. For uses not allowed by that license, contact us to request publication permission from the copyright holder: Ted Stryk


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Skip: 04/05/2013 12:17 CDT

Beautiful! I was wondering, could a rocky planet have rings? Or is there something unique about gas planets that enables them to have rings? I wonder what the rings would look like from the surface of the mother planet.

DanManX: 04/05/2013 01:16 CDT

As far as I'm aware, it's more about the mass of material in orbit around the planet that determines rings. Saturn, Uranus and Jupiter have a lot of moons and other material, which is pulled by the planet's gravity into the ring pattern (and usually "shepherded" by the moons to keep a certain shape and pattern). I believe one of the goals of New Horizons is to search for possible (very faint) rings around Pluto, so it must be possible, just rare.

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