Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Above photo and text from here.

In the shadow of Saturn, unexpected wonders appear. The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn recently drifted in giant planet's shadow for about 12 hours and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. First, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Next, the rings themselves appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but quite bright when viewed away from Saturn and slightly scattering sunlight, in the above exaggerated color image. Saturn's rings light up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in the above image. Visible in spectacular detail, however, is Saturn's E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus, and the outermost ring visible above. Far in the distance, visible on the image left just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth.

That may be the most beautiful photograph ever taken. Click on the photo to get a larger version, and then look for the dot in the upper left hand quadrant. That's Earth. Everything that you and I have ever read about or heard about took place there. Except for a few things that happened on the moon, of course.

The surface of Saturn's moon Dione, up close.

Tiny moon Janus, seen before Saturn's rings, with massive moon Titan beyond.

Saturn’s polar region.

Saturn's moon Enceladus, seen just in front of Saturn.

The four bottom photos from here, courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

No comments: