CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Shadow Misses a Ring
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The moon Pandora casts a shadow onto Saturn's A ring but not the F ring.

Pandora (81 kilometers, 50 miles across) can be seen at the bottom of the image. Because Pandora is on an inclined orbit, its shadow can fall on the main rings, but entirely miss the F ring.

The novel illumination geometry created as Saturn approaches its August 2009 equinox allows 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 unilluminated side of the rings from about 53 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 1, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.7 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) from Pandora and at a Sun-Pandora-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 98 degrees. Image scale is 10 kilometers (6 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.

For more information about the Cassini Equinox Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: July 24, 2009 (PIA 11543)
Image/Caption Information
  Shadow Misses a Ring
PIA 11543

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