Kenya Foy
February 06, 2017 1:56 pm
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Earth is awesome, thrilling and accommodates us beautifully — let’s hear it for oxygen and water! — but we remain extremely intrigued by what lies beyond its bounds. Thanks to the wonderful folks at NASA, we get to lay our eyes upon new photos of Saturn’s rings that are both mysterious and breathtaking.

Recently, the ringed planet has presented scientists with a lot of questions. For example, Saturn has changed colors and left experts mining for answers. And now, the latest close-up photos of Saturn captured by the Cassini spacecraft — which is in the midst of what’s known as it’s “ring-grazing phase” — reveal patterns that have researchers stumped.

As NASA reports, the new photos show Saturn’s icy rings in unprecedented detail, offering scientists the closest ever view of the outer portion of the planet’s main rings.

The following image features density waves on the left side, which are created from the gravity of two of the planet’s moons, Janus and Epimetheus.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

As NASA notes, we haven’t seen images of Saturn that feature this level of detail since 2004, when the Cassini first arrived at the ringed planet. Previous images were snapped at similar distances, but lacked the clarity and detail.

Here’s a look at Saturn’s stunning B ring. This is the highest-resolution photo ever taken of this ring.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

In a statement, Cassini Imaging Team Lead Carolyn Porco said:

For more of these beautiful images, visit NASA.gov, and stay tuned for more images from the Cassini, which is set to make its grand finale pass between the planet and its rings before plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, bringing an end to nearly 20-year mission.

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