Status Report

NASA Cassini Image of Saturn: Light and Dark Tricks

By SpaceRef Editor
October 10, 2010
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Capturing the interplay between light and shadow, the Cassini spacecraft looks toward the night side of Saturn where sunlight reflected off the rings has dimly illuminated what would otherwise be the dark side of the planet.

Saturn’s southern hemisphere occupies the lower left of the image, and Cassini is looking up toward the rings here. The planet casts a shadow that cuts across the rings in the top right of the image. In the top left of the image, it seems that the rings are casting shadows on the planet. That is not the case. The dark areas in the top left are the rings themselves, and they are blocking Cassini’s view of the light that is reflected off the rings and onto the planet, as seen in the middle left and lower left of the image.

For a different perspective, see this view from the Solar System Simulator.

Some sunlight from the day side of the planet scatters through the planet’s atmosphere and illuminates the limb of Saturn in the middle left of the image. See Activity Past Dark Side and High-Phase Drama for similar views and to learn more.

This view looks toward the southern, unilluminated side of the rings from about 4 degrees below the ringplane.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Sept. 2, 2010. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 435,000 kilometers (270,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 178 degrees. Image scale is 22 kilometers (14 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 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 center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at .

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Full-Res: PIA12734

SpaceRef staff editor.