Yesterday, Saturn reached its equinox, an event that occurs once every 15 years that creates the illusion that its rings have disappeared. The Cassini spacecraft was there to capture rare images of an apparently ringless Saturn.

As we've mentioned before, once every 15 Earth years, Saturn reaches its equinox, when the ringplane is directly parallel to the sun. This causes the sunlight to hit the thinnest point of the rings, making the ring shadows appear as a thin band against the planet. The Cassini team was able to position the spacecraft in such a way that it was able to capture the illusion, but also captured images of the rings from positions where they were still visible.

[CICLOPS via Universe Today]

Saturn Goes Naked on Its EquinoxS

Unprocessed image of Saturn just after the equinox.

Saturn Goes Naked on Its EquinoxS

Unprocessed image of Saturn's rings just after the equinox.

Saturn Goes Naked on Its EquinoxS

Unprocessed image of Saturn's rings just after the equinox.

Saturn Goes Naked on Its EquinoxS

Unprocessed image of Saturn's rings at the equinox.