CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Methane Saturn

Methane Saturn
PIA 18354

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  Saturn fans may wonder why their favorite planet looks so unusual in this image. It's not a trick of the light, it's all about Saturn's methane composition.

This image was taken in a wavelength that is absorbed by methane. Dark areas seen here on Saturn are regions with thicker clouds, where light has to travel through more methane on its way into and back out of the atmosphere. Since Dione (698 miles or 1,123 kilometers across) doesn't have an atmosphere rich in methane the way Saturn does, it does not experience similar absorption -- the sunlight simply bounces off its icy surface.

Shadows of the rings are seen cast onto the planet's southern hemisphere.

Dione has been brightened by a factor of two to enhance its visibility.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 0.27 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Sept. 6, 2015 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 728 nanometers.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 819,000 miles (1.32 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 49 miles (79 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: February 1, 2016 (PIA 18354)
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