The rings cast a dramatic but narrow shadow on the planet in this view from just one degree below the ringplane on the sunlit side of the rings. The rings' shadows have grown narrower on the globe of the planet as it approaches its August 2009 equinox when the sun will be aligned with the planet's equator.
Three large storms spin through the atmosphere of the southern hemisphere, but many smaller storms and fine details can be seen as well.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 31, 2008 using a combination of polarized and near-infrared filters sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (740,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 26 degrees. Image scale is 68 kilometers (42 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.