It was 35 years ago, on Nov. 12, 1980, that NASA’s Voyager 1 got as close to Saturn as it would in the course of its years-long mission. In the process, the probe—which had been launched about three years earlier—provided humankind with stunning image of the planet, as well as its rings and moons.
In all the centuries of staring out into space that had come before, sky-gazers had not been able to decipher many of the mysteries of the far-away planet. How many moons did the planet have? Not three, it turned out, but at least 15. And how many rings were there? Astronomers had long thought the answer was six, but suddenly it appeared that there were 1,000 of them, as TIME reported in a cover story the following week:
“We have learned more about the Saturn system in the past week,” one scientist noted at the time, “than in the entire span of recorded history.
Read the full Saturn cover story, here in the TIME Vault: Encounter in Space