Sketching Your Observations


Drawing Saturn

STEP 1: The Canvas

Since the vantage point from which we observe the ringed one is constantly changing, Saturn's rings change their appearance from year-to-year. I keep a ready supply of about one-half dozen templates, each with the rings at slightly different inclinations. This template presents Saturn as she appears with her rings inclined by 28 degrees. The inner Crepe ring, B-ring, Cassini division and A-ring are all accurately represented.

STEP 2: Primary Features

I begin by roughing out any atmospheric features. Saturn's are typically more subtle than the Jovian swirls, ovals and storms. The polar regions often appear distinctly dusky. Equatorial and temperate belts are commonplace. However, detail within the intermediate latitudes is often difficult to discern.

STEP 3: Details

With the major planetary features roughed in, I turn my attention to Saturn's rings. The inner Crepe ring carries a charcoal hue, to my eye, and Saturn's disk is visible through this tenuous collection of orbiting debris. The inner third of the B-ring has a slightly darker cast than the remainder. Of course, Cassini's division is a uniform black. The outer A-ring features an inner, dusky band commonly referred to as Encke's minima. This is merely a contrast feature, which does not correspond to any actual divisions within the major ring segment.

STEP 4: Finishing

Some judicious finger rubbing softens ring features and produces the desired, low contrast appearance in Saturn's atmospheric details. The Crepe ring is darkened outside the section covering the planet's disk to mimic the moderately transparent character of the ring. This is Saturn, the ringed planet and the most alien of world's in our cosmic neighborhood.

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Revised: June 16, 2003 [WDF]