Saturnian Shadow Looms Across Rings
The banner image was taken in visible red light with the Cassini spacecraft wide angle camera on July 13, 2004, from a distance of about 5 million kilometers (3.1 million miles) from Saturn. The Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase angle of this image is 95 degrees. The image scale is 299 kilometers (186 miles) per pixel. Contrast has been enhanced slightly to aid visibility.
The dark shadow of Saturn's southern hemisphere spreads across the planet's rings all the way to the Encke gap. Close inspection of the shadow's left-most extension reveals the penumbra, the blurry region in which ring features are only partially illuminated. A viewer within the penumbra would see the Sun partially eclipsed by Saturn. Gaps in the rings are caused by a resonant gravity connection between the thirty one moons and the dust halo that surrounds Saturn. Saturn itself has often been compared to a mini-solar-system, since most dust aggregation models for planets and stars involve similar disks with orbital sweeping. The other gas giants like Jupiter and Uranus also have rings but much fainter than the signature characteristic of the sixth planet from the Sun.
The image (right) was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on June 21, 2004, from a distance of 6.3 million kilometers (3.9 million miles) from Saturn through a filter sensitive to visible green light. The image scale is 37 kilometers (23 miles) per pixel.
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 Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
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