Delicate shadows are cast outward from Saturn's thin F ring in the lower left of this image taken as the planet approached its August 2009 equinox.
The moon Atlas (30 kilometers, 19 miles across) is visible just above the center of the image between the A ring and thin F ring.
The novel illumination geometry created around the time of Saturn's August 2009 equinox allows out-of-plane structures and moons orbiting in or near the plane of Saturn's equatorial rings to cast shadows onto the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. To learn more about this special time and to see movies of moons' shadows moving across the rings, see PIA11651 and PIA11660.
This view looks toward the northern, unilluminated side of the rings from about 8 degrees above the ringplane.
Several background stars are visible.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 11, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.098 million kilometers (682,000 miles) from Atlas. Image scale is 7 kilometers (4 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.