YAHOO.COM - NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured a gorgeous backlit image of
Saturn and its rings, providing a holiday treat for scientists and the
Cassini took the photo — actually a mosaic of 60 images — on Oct. 17, while looking back toward the sun from a spot within Saturn's
shadow. Such a view can reveal details about the planet's atmosphere
and rings that aren't otherwise visible, researchers said.
The image also highlights the beauty of the ringed planet, which everyone can appreciate.
"This glorious image is our special gift to you, the people of the
world, in this holiday season that brings the year 2012 to a close,"
Cassini imaging team lead Carolyn Porco, of the Space Science Institute
in Boulder, Colo., said in a statement.
"I fervently hope it serves as a reminder that we humans, though
troubled and warlike, are also the dreamers, thinkers, and explorers
inhabiting one achingly beautiful planet, yearning for the sublime, and
capable of the magnificent," she added.
Two of Saturn's many moons are visible in the newly released photo as
tiny white dots below and to the left of the planet's rings. Geyser-spewing Enceladus,
which likely harbors an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell, is
closer to the rings; Tethys sits farther below and to the left.
Cassini last took a similar backlit Saturn shot in September 2006,
researchers said. Earth could be seen as a pale dot in that mosaic,
which was called "In Saturn's Shadow." (Like the sun, our planet is
obscured by Saturn in the new photo.)
The 60 images composing the new mosaic were taken in violet, visible
and near infrared wavelengths, researchers said. The overall image was
processed in false color.
The $3.2 billion Cassini mission is a collaboration involving NASA, the
European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Cassini launched in
1997, arrived at Saturn in 2004 and delivered the Huygens lander to the
surface of Saturn's huge moon Titan in January 2005.
Cassini should continue studying Saturn and its moons for years to come; its mission has been extended though at least 2017.
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:16 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:16:38 GMT
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