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Sun's radiation and the icy particles in Saturn's rings.


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Sun's radiation.
Sun's radiation and icy particles.

Saturn has oxygen but no known life.

Cassini has discovered oxygen ions in the atmosphere around Saturn's rings, suggesting that life isn't the only process that could produce it. Molecular oxygen, aka O2, is produced here on Earth as a byproduct of plant respiration - animals like us need it to survive. It was previously thought that O2 is so volatile that it needs the presence of life to occur in a planet's atmosphere. But on Saturn, this oxygen is generated and maintained by a reaction of the Sun's radiation and the icy particles in Saturn's rings.

Panoramic view of solar system planet Saturn.

While cruising around Saturn in early October, Cassini captured a series of images that have been composed into the largest, most detailed, global natural color view of Saturn and its rings ever made.

This grand mosaic consists of 126 images acquired in a tile-like fashion, covering one end of Saturn's rings to the other and the entire planet in between. The images were taken over the course of 2 hours on October 6, 2004, while Cassini was approximately 6.3 million kilometers (3.9 million miles) from Saturn. Since the view seen by Cassini during this time changed very little, no re-projection or alteration of any of the images was necessary.

Saturn's "Dragon Storm".

Cassini discovered a large, bright and complex storm in Saturn's southern hemisphere in September 2004 which scientists dubbed the "Dragon Storm" because of its unusual shape. The Dragon Storm appears to be a long-lived storm which periodically flares up to produce dramatic white plumes which then subside. Cassini has also detected strong radio bursts generated by intense lightning storms.

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