CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Barely Bisected Rings

Barely Bisected Rings
PIA 20498

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  Saturn's shadow stretched beyond the edge of its rings for many years after Cassini first arrived at Saturn, casting an ever-lengthening shadow that reached its maximum extent at the planet's 2009 equinox. This image captured the moment in 2015 when the shrinking shadow just barely reached across the entire main ring system. The shadow will continue to shrink until the planet’s northern summer solstice, at which point it will once again start lengthening across the rings, reaching across them in 2019.

Like Earth, Saturn is tilted on its axis. And, just as on Earth, as the sun climbs higher in the sky, shadows get shorter. The projection of the planet's shadow onto the rings shrinks and grows over the course of its 29-year-long orbit, as the angle of the sun changes with respect to Saturn's equator.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 11 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 16, 2015.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is about 90 miles (150 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: September 12, 2016 (PIA 20498)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
sunhillow57 (Sep 20, 2016 at 8:03 AM):
this has been a long journey for cassini to travel. the end of mission has been a long time coming.
NeKto (Sep 13, 2016 at 10:53 AM):
i have not been able to get to this page for about two weeks. glad to have it back.
and this image is just another Wow!
a little matter, a little angular momentum, set them loose and look at what you can get.
i still love the images here.