Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a classic: the Voyager 1 image revealing Jupiter’s rings for the first time. Unlike Saturn, the other giant worlds in our Solar System (Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune) don’t have dramatic ring systems. Many of the best images of these planets don’t show the rings at all, since they are darker. While Uranus’ rings show up clearly in infrared images, they do not in visible light.
I love the Jupiter photo: it’s a work of abstract art as well as an astronomically valuable image. The planet is nearly in silhouette, with just a hint of sunlight glinting around the edges of the disc. (Obviously this is a view we’ll never see from Earth, since Jupiter will never come between us and the Sun.) The rings are dusty and diffuse, a fuzzy thin line on either side of Jupiter’s circular arcs. While Jupiter seen in sunlight is a colorful planet, this picture contains only simple contrasts: darkness, pierced only by four disjoint lines rendered in white. The whole image is a study in the beauty that can be found in simplicity.