CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Pencil-thin Rings
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Pencil-thin Rings
PIA 06651

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  Were all of the material that makes up Saturn's rings to be compressed into a single body, it could make a moon roughly 80% the size of Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across), seen here against the darkness of the planet's night side. Saturn's rings are incredibly thin by astronomical standards: in most places no thicker than the height of a two-story building. Their apparent thickness here is deceptive, as Cassini is not precisely within the ringplane and the image resolution is greater than the physical thickness of the rings.

Long, threadlike shadows cast by the rings adorn the atmosphere in this somewhat eerie scene.

The image was taken in visible light with the wide angle camera on March 11, 2005, from a distance of approximately 1.3 million kilometers (800,000 miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 74 kilometers (46 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. 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-Huygens mission, visit and the Cassini imaging team home page,

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: May 18, 2005 (PIA 06651)
Image/Caption Information

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