The shadow of Saturn's moon Mimas dips onto the planet's rings and straddles the Cassini Division in this natural color image taken as Saturn approaches its August 2009 equinox.
The novel illumination geometry created as the Saturnian system approaches equinox allows moons orbiting in or near the plane of Saturn's equatorial rings to cast shadows onto the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. To see a movie of Mimas' shadow moving across the rings, see A Shadow's Traverse (PIA11658). Mimas, 396 kilometers (246 miles) across, does not appear in this image, but the moon has a flattened, or oblate, shape (see Not Quite Round).
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 52 degrees below the ringplane. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on April 8, 2009 at a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometers (684,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 64 kilometers (40 miles) 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.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute