CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

On the Final Frontier
[For trouble viewing the images/movies on this page, go here]
Saturn sits nested in its rings of ice as Cassini once again plunges toward the graceful giant.

This natural color mosaic was acquired by the Cassini spacecraft as it soared 39 degrees above the unilluminated side of the rings.

Little light makes its way through the rings to be scattered in Cassini’s direction in this viewing geometry, making the rings appear somewhat dark compared to the reflective planet. The view can be contrasted with earlier mosaics designed to showcase the rings rather than the planet, which were therefore given longer exposure times (see PIA08362 and PIA08361).

Bright clouds play in the blue-gray skies of the north. The ring shadows continue to caress the planet as they slide farther south toward their momentary disappearance during equinox in 2009. The rings’ reflected light illuminates the southern hemisphere on Saturn’s night side.

The scene is reminiscent of the parting glance of Voyager 1 as it said goodbye to Saturn in 1981 (see PIA00335). Cassini, however, will continue to orbit Saturn for many years to come.

Three of Saturn’s moons are visible in this image: Mimas (396 kilometers, 246 miles across) at the 2 o’clock position, Janus (179 kilometers, 111 miles across) at the 4 o’clock position and Pandora (81 kilometers, 50 miles across) at the 8 o'clock position. Pandora is a faint speck just outside the narrow F ring.

This mosaic was constructed from wide-angle camera images taken just before the narrow-angle camera mosaic PIA08389.

The view combines 45 images -- 15 separate sets of red, green and blue images--taken over the course of about two hours, as Cassini scanned across the entire main ring system.

The images in this view were obtained on May 9, 2007 at a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometers (700,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is about 62 kilometers (39 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 Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit and the Cassini imaging team home page,

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: October 15, 2007 (PIA 08388)
Image/Caption Information
  On the Final Frontier
PIA 08388

Avg Rating: 8.34/10

Full Size 2312x1424:
PNG 7.3 MB
TIFF 17.7 MB

Half Size 1156x712:
PNG 1.8 MB

Alliance Member Comments
matthewota (Apr 27, 2008 at 9:35 PM):
Incredible image as Cassini arcs into a high inclination is a work of art as well as science.
Acrylikhan (Dec 5, 2007 at 5:58 PM):
Sci-fi artist Chesley Bonstel would have loved this image!
DEChengst (Nov 20, 2007 at 1:19 PM):
If Saturn is "the lord of the rings", then I guess Carolyn is "the lady of the rings". I say this because I downloaded a 1990 BBC documentary about the Voyager Neptune flyby today. In the beginning they showed a room full of scientists watching the images come in, and I thought "Hey, that looks like Carolyn!" :) Later on she talked quite a bit about the Neptune ring arcs. I guess Carolyn really loves planetary rings systems.

The Neptune documentary was part of a two part series about the Voyager probes. One highlight in the first episode was a 1979 videoclip with Edward Stone walking around a full scale mockup, and talking about what all the instruments did. Awesome stuff from a time before science documentaries were afraid to go into details too much.
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Oct 25, 2007 at 10:32 AM):
Red_Dragon: This picture was one of those Photo Ops that we on the Imaging Team planned especially to create a glorious sight. As you can see, the planet is not overexposed as it is in Blinding Saturn ( ). The set of images that included the globe of the planet had to be treated differently than the rest. We're glad you like it.
Red_dragon (Oct 16, 2007 at 1:33 AM):
Fantastic, amazing, epic... no words can describe the unearthly beauty of this image. Thank you very much for creating this magnificent picture that rivals with "In Saturn's Shadow" and those magnificent vistas you took when Cassini was approaching to Saturn.

Want to add a comment?   Login (for Alliance Members) ... or ... Join the CICLOPS Alliance!