ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Drawings of Saturn, by the British clergyman and astronomer Thomas William Webb (1807-1885). Some ring structure is shown, including a close-in ring (here labelled alpha at top left). Successive diagrams (1 to 4) show the progressive change in appearance as Saturn moves into a position where Earth observers are looking down on it. This change takes place over a 29-year cycle as Saturn orbits the Sun. The first telescopic observations of Saturn's rings were made by Galileo in 1610, but it was not until better telescopes were used that more detail was observed.
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