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As the ringed giant tugged on Cassini, urging it to make yet another orbit, the intrepid spacecraft took in this all-encompassing panorama. This view was acquired near apoapse - the farthest point from Saturn in Cassini's elliptical orbit. Even from this distant vantage point, the planet and its rings were still too large to fit into a single frame; this view is a mosaic of two images.
The rings are the source of the dark, curving shadows on the northern hemisphere. Mimas (396 kilometers, 246 miles across) is visible as a speck of light just above the rings at left.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 12, 2005, at a distance of approximately 3.2 million kilometers (2 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 87 degrees. The image scale is 193 kilometers (120 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.