Date: 15 Sep 2006
With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun's blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world.
This marvelous panoramic view was created by combining a total of 165 images taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on 15 Sept. 2006. The full mosaic consists of three rows of nine wide-angle camera footprints; only a portion of the full mosaic is shown here. Color in the view was created by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared and clear filter images and was then adjusted to resemble natural color.
The mosaic images were acquired as the spacecraft drifted in the darkness of Saturn's shadow for about 12 hours, allowing a multitude of unique observations of the microscopic particles that comprise Saturn's faint rings. Ring structures containing these tiny particles brighten substantially at high phase angles: i.e., viewing angles where the sun is almost directly behind the objects being imaged.
During this period of observation Cassini detected two new faint rings: one coincident with the shared orbit of the moons Janus and Epimetheus and another coincident with Pallene's orbit.
The narrowly confined G ring is easily seen here, outside the bright main rings. Encircling the entire system is the much more extended E ring. The icy plumes of Enceladus, whose eruptions supply the E ring particles, betray the moon's position in the E ring's left side edge.
Interior to the G ring and above the brighter main rings is the pale dot of Earth. Cassini views its point of origin from over a billion kilometers (and close to a billion miles) away in the icy depths of the outer solar system.
Small grains are pushed about by sunlight and electromagnetic forces. Hence their distribution tells much about the local space environment.
Last Update: 11 Jul 2011 (AMB)
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute