Saturn's Rings Are Even Weirder (And Prettier) Up-Close

The shape of Saturn's rings is usually what gets all the attention — but what can the colors tell us?

The picture was shot by Cassini's Ultraviolet Spectrograph camera as it did a fly-by of the famous rings and represents a cross-section about 10,000 km across. These rainbow colors don't just look cool, though — they also tell us something about what's going on inside of the rings.

The different colors signal different compositions within the rings. We know that the rings contain ice, but just how pure that ice is can be figured out by looking more closely at the colors. While the blue-green colors mean that the ice in those sections is made of purer water, the redder rings signal that the ice in these sections is mixed with contaminants.

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Colorado via ESA