The Hubble Space Telescope has taken another striking shot of the solar system's most photogenic planet. Sure, it's mostly a collection of gas, but unlike Uncle Albert, Saturn can look absolutely stunning in a photograph. Some of the most iconic images of the ringed planet have been taken at a relatively close distance by probes during a flyby, but the Hubble has some advantages, including the ability to observe the planet over an extended period.
The image from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 dates from June when Saturn made its closest approach to Earth for the year. It's the second image of the year in the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project, which helps scientists better understand the atmospheric "dynamics and evolution" of the gas giants in the solar system.
NASA says the image "reveals an unprecedented clarity only seen previously in snapshots taken by NASA spacecraft visiting the distant planet." In addition to the photo, NASA has posted a video of the planet that shows the orbit of four of its moons, including Mimas, which looks a bit like the Death Star.
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The annual images reveal changes in the atmosphere and meteorological conditions of the outer planets in our solar system. For instance, this year's image of Saturn shows a storm that was visible in the northern polar region of Saturn last year has disappeared entirely. However, there's plenty that is constant, like the hexagonal storm at the planet's north pole and the general banded beauty of the planet and its rings.
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