This close-up view shows an inner region of Saturn's C ring. It covers a radial location on the rings located approximately 78,000 to 80,500 kilometers (48,500 to 50,000 miles) from the center of the planet. Saturn itself has a radius of 60,330 kilometers (34,490 miles).
A bright feature, informally referred to as a "plateau," arcs across the image center. The plateau is not high in terms of elevation, but rather in terms of particle density (seen here as brightness). The density is fairly uniform within the bright band, and some five times higher than in the surrounding ring structure. Although the many plateaus in Saturn's rings appear unchanged over 25 years of observations, scientists do not know what determines their locations or maintains their sharp boundaries.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 5, 2005, at a distance of approximately 418,000 kilometers (260,000 miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 2 kilometers (1 mile) 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 http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute