The Cassini spacecraft looks past the night side of Saturn, dimly lit on the left of this image by ringshine, for a subtly distorted view of the planet's rings.
Light passing through the upper reaches of the planet's atmosphere is refracted, or bent, distorting the view of the rings beyond. See Funhouse Atmosphere to learn more.
Bright specks in the image are background stars. This view looks toward the sunlit, northern side of the rings from about 9 degrees above the ringplane.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 7, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 3 million kilometers (1.9 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 102 degrees. Image scale is 17 kilometers (11 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