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: Space sex geckos at risk as Russia loses control of satellite

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

Video: A dizzying view of the Earth from space

18 hours ago

We've got vertigo watching this video, but in a good way! This is a sped-up view of Earth from the International Space Station from the Cupola, a wraparound window that is usually used for cargo ship berthings ...

NEOWISE spots a comet that looked like an asteroid

18 hours ago

Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) has been observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft just one day after passing through its closest approach to the sun. The comet ...

What the UK Space Agency can teach Australia

18 hours ago

Australia has had an active civil space program since 1947 but has much to learn if it is to capture a bigger share of growing billion dollar global space industry. ...

Discover the "X-factor" of NASA's Webb telescope

18 hours ago

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray observatory have something in common: a huge test chamber used to simulate the hazards of space and the distant glow of starlight. Viewers can learn about ...

User comments : 0