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See Inside April 2010

8 Wonders of the Solar System

Artist Ron Miller takes us on a journey to eight of the most breathtaking views that await intrepid explorers of our solar system. The scale of these natural wonders dwarfs anything Earth has to offer. What might we see and feel if we could travel to these distant domains? The artist's eye—interpreting data from probes such as NASA's Cassini, which is now exploring the Saturnian system, and MESSENGER, which has flown by Mercury three times and goes into permanent orbit next March—allows us an early visit to these unforgettable locales.



Ron Miller

1 THE RINGS OF SATURN

You are cruising in the troposphere of Saturn under the most magnificent ring structure in the solar system. Few sights are more astounding. The white, icy rings soar 75,000 kilometers above your head. Ring shine illuminates everything around you. No fewer than six crescent moons rise in the sky. The light from the setting sun scatters against a mist of ammonia crystals, forming a sun dog. You are buffeted by ammonia clouds that stream by you at speeds greater than 1,500 kilometers an hour. These are some of the fastest winds in the solar system. More than 30,000 kilometers below you, with pressures no human-made thing could survive, is a global ocean of liquid metallic hydrogen. There will be no landing on this planet.

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