Enceladus passing in front of Tethys, with Saturn’s rings in the foreground
NOT everything looks lovelier the longer and closer its inspection. But Saturn does. It is gorgeous through Earthly telescopes. However, the 13 years of close observation provided by Cassini, an American spacecraft, showed the planet, its moons and its remarkable rings off better and better, revealing finer structures, striking novelties and greater drama.
Cassini’s observations, which ended last September when the craft was crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere, also provided further evidence that, as might be expected of such delicate beauty, the rings are quite new to the world. This idea is not novel, but has been put on a firmer footing than before. And a new theory proposes that the cataclysm which created the rings may also have brought into being quite a few of Saturn’s moons.
By and large the big things in the solar system—...