CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

PIA 18294

Avg Rating: 9.63/10

Full Size 839x811:
  Saturn’s main rings, seen here on their “lit” face, appear much darker than normal. since they tend to scatter light back toward its source. That’s because they tend to scatter light back toward its source - in this case, the Sun.

Usually, when taking images of the rings in geometries like this, exposures times are increased to make the rings more visible. Here, the requirement to not over-expose Saturn's lit crescent reveals just how dark the rings actually become. Scientists are interested in images in this sunward-facing ("high phase") geometry because the way that the rings scatter sunlight can tell us much about the ring particles' physical make-up.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 6 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 12, 2014.

This image was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 152 degrees. Image scale is 86 miles (138 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini Solstice 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 Solstice Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Released: December 22, 2014 (PIA 18294)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
jsc248 (Dec 25, 2014 at 4:26 AM):
I like this image because despite all the images and science from CASSINI, this still gives an air of mystery to the great planet. Superb image.
NeKto (Dec 23, 2014 at 8:41 AM):
intriguing image and interesting science. i like this one as much for the explanation as the visual impact.