Delicate shadows are cast outward from Saturn's thin F ring in the lower left of this image taken as the planet approached its August 2009 equinox.
The moon Atlas (30 kilometers, or 19 miles across) is seen just above the center of the image between the A ring and thin F ring. Several background stars are also visible.
The novel illumination geometry created around the time of Saturn's August 2009 equinox allows out-of-plane structures and 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 learn more about this special time and to see movies of moons' shadows moving across the rings, see
Moon Shadow in Motion and Weaving a Shadow.
This view looks toward the northern, unilluminated side of the rings from about 8 degrees above the ringplane.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 11, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.098 million kilometers (682,000 miles) from Atlas. Image scale is 7 kilometers (4 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