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Saturn 'bends' its rings in striking NASA photo

NASA's Cassini spacecraft snaps a mind-boggling view of Saturn's rings looking a little bent out of shape.

Saturn's rings are bent on bending.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA released a new image from the Cassini spacecraft on Monday. It shows Saturn's rings taking a dramatic-looking detour as they near the dark circle of the planet. If you didn't read NASA's explanation for the phenomenon, then you might think there was a warp in the space-time continuum happening far out there in space. But don't worry. Science has it all figured out.

Saturn causes the bendy visual effect. "Saturn's atmosphere absorbs some of the light reflected by the rings as it passes through. But absorption is not the only thing that happens to that light. As it passes from space to the atmosphere and back out into space toward Cassini's cameras, its path is refracted, or bent," says NASA.

Cassini took the shot from about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) away from the rings in early June. The image joins a long line of beautiful Cassini photos. Other recent lookers include a shot of Saturn's rings slicing its moon Dione in two, a close look at the potato-shaped moon Prometheus and a peek at a turbulent storm raging at Saturn's south pole.