CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Narrowing Ring Shadow
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The shadows of Saturn's rings appear as a narrow band on the planet in this image taken as Saturn approaches its August 2009 equinox.

The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane and causes moons and out-of-plane structures to cast long shadows across 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.

The rings have been brightened relative to the planet to enhance visibility.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 21 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on June 25, 2009 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 918 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 620,000 kilometers (385,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 26 degrees. Image scale is 33 kilometers (21 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: August 21, 2009 (PIA 11563)
Image/Caption Information
  Narrowing Ring Shadow
PIA 11563

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