Backyard Observatory

NASA Just Shared This Beautiful Photo of Saturn From the Hubble Telescope

Saturn shines in this gorgeous summer image.

hubble photo of saturn
NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), and the OPAL Team

As kids, lots of students had favorite planets. Some of us still do as adults. (Unless that planet was Pluto, and it was cruelly ripped from your childhood.) I've always had a soft spot for Venus and Neptune. Maybe yours was Mars. Whatever your favorite, it's hard to argue against Saturn being the most photogenic. Its rings give it a leg up on the competition. 

For anyone who loves a nice glamour shot of the ringed planet, NASA's Hubble Telescope just shared a gorgeous new image of the planet taken back on July 4, 2020. The photo reveals summer in Saturn's northern hemisphere. NASA's announcement notes that the planet's atmosphere has had slight color shifts since Hubble's 2019 image of the solar system's second-largest planet. One of the changes is a "reddish haze" over the northern hemisphere and a blue shade over the southern hemisphere. "It's amazing that even over a few years, we're seeing seasonal changes on Saturn," lead investigator Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said.

"[The reddish color] may be due to heating from increased sunlight, which could either change the atmospheric circulation or perhaps remove ices from aerosols in the atmosphere," NASA said in a post sharing the image. You can also spot two of the planet's frigid moons. Mimas is to the right, and Enceladus is near the bottom of the image.

The photo was taken as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project, which seeks to better understand the "atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system's gas giant planets." As part of the project, Hubble turns its attention to Jupiter and Saturn's weather annually. Hubble's snapshot is continuing to aid understanding of the planet, but it's also just a damn beautiful picture. I'm changing my answer. Saturn's my favorite now. (You can see Saturn in the night sky all night right now.)

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.