In the shadows of Saturn's rings

Jun 20, 2012
Titan and Saturn, seen when the Cassini spacecraft passed by Titan at a distance of 700, 000 km on 6 May 2012. The Cassini--Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations centre is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/J. Major

(Phys.org) -- Titan appears to be strung like a bead on Saturn’s rings, which cast shadows onto the southern hemisphere of the gas giant in this beautiful image from Cassini.
 
Faint but exquisite detail in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere paints a tranquil scene. A thin band of bright white ammonia ice clouds is etched into the planet’s disc towards the top of the image while clouds dotted below are faded scars of a huge storm that raged across the planet through much of 2011.

Shadows cast by ’s iconic rings appear painted onto the planet’s southern hemisphere in two thick bands broken by thin, lighter stripes, reflecting the intricacies of the individual rings.

As Saturn’s seasons progress towards northern hemisphere summer, the rings will appear to grow wider and wider.

Meanwhile Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, appears to hang on the planet’s rings like a bead on a necklace. The effect is a result of the line-of-sight viewing position; orbits Saturn at an average distance of 1, 221, 870 km.

The moon is an enigma in itself – cloaked in a thick nitrogen-rich atmosphere, it is the only moon in the Solar System that has a dense atmosphere. Lakes of liquid hydrocarbons pool on its surface, and an active methane cycle plays a similar role to Earth’s water cycle, complete with clouds and methane rain.

Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004 and is now in its second extended mission phase, the Cassini Solstice Mission, which will continue until 2017.  

Explore further: Remembering the "World War I eclipse"

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Space Image: Rings, Titan and Enceladus

Apr 19, 2012

Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus hangs below the gas giant’s rings while Titan lurks in the background, in this new image taken by the Cassini spacecraft.   Faint detail of the tiger stripe mark ...

Space Image: Beside a giant

Feb 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Saturn's largest moon, Titan, looks small here, pictured to the right of the gas giant in this Cassini spacecraft view.

Image: Rings around a crescent

Nov 23, 2010

A crescent Saturn appears nestled within encircling rings in this Cassini spacecraft image. Clouds swirl through the atmosphere of the planet and a barely visible Prometheus orbits between the planet's main ...

Rings on the horizon

Jan 26, 2011

The Cassini spacecraft has taken a some recent images of two of Saturn’s most notorious moons, where in both images the planet’s rings serve as a backdrop. Above, Enceladus stands out with its cratered ...

Cassini delivers holiday treats from Saturn

Dec 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- No team of reindeer, but radio signals flying clear across the solar system from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have delivered a holiday package of glorious images. The pictures, from Cassini’s ...

Recommended for you

Mars, Saturn and the claws of Scorpius

5 hours ago

Look up at the night sky this week and you'll find Mars and Saturn together in the west. Mars stands out with its reddish colouring and you might just be able to detect a faint yellow tinge to Saturn. ...

Electric sparks may alter evolution of lunar soil

8 hours ago

The moon appears to be a tranquil place, but modeling done by University of New Hampshire and NASA scientists suggests that, over the eons, periodic storms of solar energetic particles may have significantly ...

User comments : 0