Some of the most spectacular images ever of Saturn’s enigmatic rings have been returned by the Cassini space probe.

The pictures were captured using Cassini’s Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) instrument and have been colour-enhanced to illustrate the different materials that lurk within the planet’s famous discs. They were taken on 30 June shortly before the spacecraft slipped into orbit around the planet by drifting between two of its rings.

Astronomers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, who analysed the images, say they confirm that Saturn’s rings get dustier and icier towards the edge. The dust and rocky debris found in Saturn’s rings is thought to be made of silicates and organic materials, while the ice is likely to be a mixture of water and other substances such as ammonia.

Photos here.
More photos here.