view of Saturn as it passes behind the sun, Cassini spacecraft in tow.
This Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) image, taken Oct. 24, 2012, at 11:06 UTC, shows a view of Saturn as it passes behind the sun, Cassini spacecraft in tow.

Saturn Superior Conjunction is underway this week. This is when Saturn and the Cassini spacecraft are on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. During this time, which began on Oct. 22, Cassini's high-gain antenna is pointed to Earth, called "Earth point," and will continue this attitude through Oct. 29. During this period antennas on Earth don’t receive data like the raw images.

In this view, Saturn is visible to the upper left of the white circle (the solar disk), which is blocked by a disk on the coronagraph instrument taking the image. The field of view in the image is 32 solar diameters -- about 30 million miles (45 million kilometers) or nearly out to the orbit of Mercury. The streak accompanying Saturn is not the rings but a distortion caused by Saturn's brightness.

This year, Cassini gets to within 2.2 degrees of the sun's center, and that occurs 2:19 am PDT Thursday. Oct. 25, 2012.

Cassini Classroom Activity

"Monitoring the Sun's Corona" is an inquiry-based activity featuring Cassini Science and Engineering. Students learn how spacecraft use the relative positions of the sun, Earth, and a spacecraft to study the sun's outer region, called the corona. See for a link to this activity and many more.

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