Our robotic emissary, flying high above Saturn, captured this view of an alien copper-colored ring world. The overexposed planet has deliberately been removed to show the unlit rings alone, seen from an elevation 60 degrees, the highest Cassini has yet attained. [Source with more information and much, much larger, higher quality version]
And yet… Saturn does have one thing pulling it down, or so many have thought. “Saturn is a much blander world than Jupiter” is a sentiment expressed by many (in this case I’m quoting Patrick Moore). But I think this line of thinking needs to be nipped in the bud. Certainly, Saturn’s pastel clouds are more muted than those of Jupiter, but that doesn’t make them any less attractive. And, in its own quiet way, Saturn does interesting things. For example, suddenly turning blue.
Scientists studying Saturn are not yet sure about the precise cause of the color change from north to south. NASA Voyager spacecraft flybys witnessed a more evenly painted planet in the early 1980s, when Saturn was closer to equinox. However, the bluish color was readily apparent upon Cassini's approach to the planet in late 2003, when Saturn was just coming out of its northern hemisphere winter. Scientists have speculated that the color is due to seasonal effects on the atmosphere.
Words from the caption for this image, which nicely shows the patterning in Saturn’s cloud-tops from north to south: