Press Release

NASA Cassini Spacecraft Captures Stunning View of Saturn

By SpaceRef Editor
February 27, 2004
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NASA Cassini Spacecraft Captures Stunning View of Saturn
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Four months before its scheduled arrival at Saturn, the
Cassini-Huygens spacecraft sent its best color postcard back to
Earth of the ringed world. The spacecraft is expected to send
weekly postcards, as it gets closer to the ringed giant.

The view from Cassini shows Saturn growing larger and more
defined as the spacecraft nears a July 1, 2004, arrival date.
On February 9, Cassini’s narrow angle camera, one of two
cameras onboard the spacecraft, took a series of exposures
through different filters, which were combined to form the
color image released today.

“We very much want everyone to enjoy Cassini’s tour of this
magnificent planetary system,” said Dr. Carolyn Porco, leader
of the Cassini imaging science team at the Space Science
Institute in Boulder, Colo. “And I can say right now the views
out the window will be stunning,” Porco said.

Cassini was 69.4 million kilometers (43.2 million miles) from
Saturn when the images were taken. The smallest features
visible in the image are approximately 540 kilometers (336
miles) across. Finer details in the rings and atmosphere than
previously seen are beginning to emerge and will grow in
sharpness and clarity over the coming months. The thickness of
the middle B ring of Saturn, and the comparative translucence
of the outer A ring, when seen against the planet, as well as
subtle color differences in the finely banded Saturn
atmosphere, are more apparent.

“I feel like a kid on a road trip at the beginning of our
tour,” said Dr. Dennis Matson, project scientist for the
Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its largest moon Titan.
“We’ve been driving this car for nearly 3.5 billion kilometers
(2.2 billion miles) and it’s time to get off and explore this
ringed world and its many moons. I can hardly wait, but in the
meantime, these weekly color images offer a glimpse of our
final destination,” Matson said.

In the coming months, imaging highlights will include near
daily, multi-wavelength imaging of Saturn and its rings;
imaging of Titan beginning in April; Titan movie sequences
starting in late May, when the resolution exceeds that
obtainable from Earth; and a flyby of Saturn’s distant moon,
Phoebe, in June, at a spacecraft altitude of 2,000 kilometers
(1,243 miles).

Through Cassini, about 260 scientists from 17 countries hope to
gain a better understanding of Saturn, its famous rings, its
magnetosphere, Titan, and its other icy moons. “Cassini is
probably the most ambitious exploration mission ever launched
and is the fruit of an active international collaboration,”
said Dr. Andre Brahic, imaging team member and professor at
Universite Paris 7-Denis Diderot, France. “It should be the
prelude of our future, the exploration of our surroundings by
humanity,” Brahic said.

Cassini will begin a four-year prime mission in orbit around
Saturn when it arrives July 1. It will release its piggybacked
Huygens probe about six months later for descent through
Titan’s thick atmosphere. The probe could impact in what may be
a liquid methane ocean.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Office of Space
Science, Washington. The Space Science Institute is a non-
profit organization of scientists and educators engaged in
research in astrophysics, planetary science, Earth sciences,
and in integrating research with education and public outreach.
Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative mission of NASA, the European
Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency

For the first image and other weekly images on the Internet
each Friday, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

http://ciclops.org

For information about Cassini-Huygens on the Internet, visit,

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

SpaceRef staff editor.