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Shadows cast onto Saturn by its rings, visible here as dark bands, move steadily towards the equator and grow thinner as equinox approaches. During the equinox the sun will cross Saturn's ring plane on August 11, 2009. Color variations between clouds in the northern hemisphere are more apparent than those in the southern hemisphere, which seems relatively bland, as spring arrives in the north and fall in the south.
Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Nov. 22, 2008 at a distance of approximately 859,000 kilometers (533,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 56 degrees. Image scale is 48 kilometers (30 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. 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 was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. 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.