Saturn shows off its shadow

Sep 21, 2012 by Jason Major, Universe Today
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Take a look up at the enormous shadow cast by Saturn onto its own rings in this raw image, acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on September 18, 2012.

Cassini captured this image from below Saturn's ring plane at a distance of 1,393,386 miles (2,242,437 kilometers). It shows not only the 's shadow but also the wispy nature of the rings, which, although complex, extensive and highly reflective (the light seen on Saturn above is reflected light from the rings!) they are still very thin—less than a mile (about 1 km) on average and in some places as little as thirty feet (10 meters) thick.

Seen in the right light, some of the thin innermost rings can seem to nearly disappear entirely—especially when backlit by Saturn itself.

Cassini spots shepherd moons Pan (within the Encke Gap) and Prometheus (along the inner edge of the F ring) in an image acquired on Sept. 18, 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Views like the one above are once again possible because of Cassini's new orbit, which takes it high above and below the , providing a new perspective for studying Saturn and its moons. Ultimately by next April the spacecraft will be orbiting Saturn at an inclination of about 62 degrees—that'd be like an orbit around Earth that goes from Alaska to the northernmost tip of Antarctica. (Find out how Cassini alters its orbit here.)

With this viewpoint Cassini will get some great views of Saturn's north and south poles, which are gradually moving into their summer and winter seasons, respectively, during the ringed planet's 29.5-Earth-year .

After more than 8 years in orbit Cassini is still fascinating us with enthralling images of Saturn on a regular basis. Read more about the here.

Explore further: NASA: Engineer vital to 1969 moon landing dies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Saturn's rings are back

Jul 10, 2012

(Phys.org) -- It's been nearly two years since NASA's Cassini spacecraft has had views like these of Saturn's glorious rings. These views are possible again because Cassini has changed the angle at which it ...

Saturn's B-ring: Taking a closer look

Sep 11, 2012

(Phys.org)—Clumpy particles in Saturn's B-ring provide stark contrast to the delicately ordered ringlets seen in the rest of this view presented by the Cassini spacecraft.

Portraits of moons captured by Cassini

Dec 13, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its closest-ever pass over Saturn's moon Dione on Monday, Dec. 12, slaloming its way through the Saturn system on its way to tomorrow's close ...

Journey to Saturn From Your Computer

Feb 01, 2008

Want a peek at Saturn as seen from space? A new interactive 3-D viewer that uses a game engine and allows users to travel to Saturn and see it the way the Cassini spacecraft sees it is now online at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/CASSIE ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

16 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...