According to NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, the temperature of Saturn’s rings range from cold to really really cold. In this false-colour image, the red signifies 110 Kelvin (-261 degrees F), and the blue is 70 Kelvin (-333 degrees F). Cassini has shown that opaque regions of the rings are cooler, while transparent sections are warmer; this was predicted by scientists before the spacecraft arrived.

The Cassini spacecraft has taken the most detailed temperature measurements to date of Saturn’s rings. Data taken by the composite infrared spectrometer instrument on the spacecraft while entering Saturn’s orbit show the cool and relatively warm regions of the rings.

This false-color image shows that the temperatures on the unlit side of Saturn’s rings vary from a relatively warm 110 Kelvin (-261 degrees Fahrenheit, shown in red), to a cool 70 Kelvin (-333 degrees Fahrenheit, shown in blue). The green represents a temperature of 90 Kelvin (-298 degrees Fahrenheit). Water freezes at 273 Kelvin (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

The data show that the opaque region of the rings, like the outer A ring (on the far right) and the middle B ring, are cooler, while more transparent sections, like the Cassini Division (in red just inside the A ring) or the inner C ring (shown in yellow and red), are warmer. Scientists had predicted this might be the case, because the opaque ring areas would let less light through, and the transparent areas, more. These results also show, for the first time, that individual ringlets in the C ring and the Cassini Division are cooler than the surrounding, more transparent regions.

The temperature data were taken on July 1, 2004, shortly after Saturn orbit insertion. Cassini is so close to the planet that no pictures of the unlit side of the rings are available, hence the temperature data was mapped onto a picture of the lit side of the rings. Saturn is overexposed and pure white in this picture. Saturn’s moon Enceladus is visible below the rings, toward the center.

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