Saturn's southern atmosphere looms before Cassini, displaying rich detail in its swirls and bands. Bright, icy Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across) appears near the bottom of the image.
This view was taken through a filter where methane gas is a moderate absorber of sunlight. Since methane gas is not present on Enceladus, its surface scatters a higher percentage of the light falling on it than Saturn does, making the moon appear very bright compared to the planet. Enceladus was dimmed in brightness by a factor of four during processing of the image, in order to make its brightness comparable to that of Saturn.
The rings show some fine structure here. The three main rings, C, B and A from innermost to outermost, are clearly defined by their differences in brightness.
The image was taken with the narrow angle camera on September 19, 2004, from a distance of 8.3 million kilometers (5.2 million miles) from Saturn through a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 727 nanometers. The image scale is 49 kilometers (30 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.