The Cassini spacecraft took a break from imaging Saturn's rings as the planet approached its August 2009 equinox and snapped this close-up of the planet's atmosphere, revealing detailed and elaborate patterns in the clouds of the northern hemisphere.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 18, 2009 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 2.1 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 109 degrees. Image scale is 12 kilometers (8 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.