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Best of Cassini

The Cassini spacecraft is sending back unprecedented imagery of Saturn, its rings and its moons. Click "Launch" to see some of the greatest hits from the Cassini mission.

/ 14 PHOTOS

Starring Saturn

This backlit view of Saturn was voted the favorite image to come from the Cassini orbiter - and it has been described as "perhaps the most stunning photograph ever taken." The image, captured on Sept. 15, 2006, shows two faint rings that were discovered by the Cassini team. And at the highest resolution, Earth itself appears as a pale blue dot just to the left of the brightest rings, at about the 10 o'clock position.

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Dark rings

An infrared image from the Cassini orbiter, acquired May 24, 2007, reveals clouds beneath the hazes in Saturn's atmosphere, as well as the unilluminated side of the giant planet's rings. The shadows of the rings fall upon the planet's cloud layer. This image shares the honors as the favorite black-and-white picture from Cassini.

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Abstract art

A Cassini image from May 10, 2006, shows the shaded edge of Saturn's disk, rounded by dark rings seen nearly edge-on. The crescent disk of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, can be seen in the background beyond the rings. This image shares the honors as the favorite black-and-white image from Cassini.

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Pearly moons

Two of Saturn's moons - Tethys and Enceladus - look like pearls backdropped by the planet's disk in this image, captured on July 24, 2007. The thin "string" connecting the pearls is actually the plane of the planet's rings, seen edge-on. The rings cast a dark shadow on Saturn's disk. Two other moons appear in this image, although they can barely be made out at the highest resolution: Hyperion is near the lower left corner of the image, and Epimetheus is the slightest of specks between Tethys and Enceladus.

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Surely one of the most gorgeous sights the solar system has to offer, Saturn sits enveloped by the full splendor of its stately rings. 
Taking in the rings in their entirety was the focus of this particular imaging sequence. Therefore, the camera exposure times were just right to capture the dark-side of its rings, but longer than that required to properly expose the globe of sunlit Saturn. Consequently, the sunlit half of the planet is overexposed. 
Between the blinding light of day and the dark of night, there is a strip of twilight on the globe where colorful details in the atmosphere can be seen. Bright clouds dot the bluish-grey northern polar region here. In the south, the planet's night side glows golden in reflected light from the rings' sunlit face. 
Saturn's shadow stretches completely across the rings in this view, taken on Jan. 19, 2007, in contrast to what Cassini saw when it arrived in 2004 (see PIA05429 </catalog/PIA05429>). 
The view is a mosaic of 36 images -- that is, 12 separate sets of red, green and blue images -- taken over the course of about 2.5 hours, as Cassini scanned across the entire main ring system. 
This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 40 degrees above the ring plane. 
The images in this natural-color view were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera at a distance of approximately 1.23 million kilometers (764,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 70 kilometers (44 miles) per pixel.

Saturn from on high

The Cassini spacecraft provides a high-contrast view of Saturn and its rings, as seen from above. This portrait is actually a mosaic of 36 images taken on Jan. 19, 2007, from about 40 degrees above the plane of the rings.

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Magnificent blue and gold Saturn floats obliquely as one of its gravity-bound companions, Dione, hangs in the distance. The darkened rings seem to nearly touch their shadowy reverse images on the planet below. 
This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 9 degrees above the ring plane. The rings glow feebly in the scattered light that filters through them. 
Dione is 1,126 kilometers (700 miles) across. 
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb. 4, 2007, at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (800,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 75 kilometers (47 miles) per pixel.

Shadows on clouds

Saturn's darkened rings cast shadows on the planet's blue and gold cloud tops, while the moon Dione hangs like a dot in the black sky beyond. This image was taken by the Cassini spacecraft on Feb. 4, 2007, from a distance of about 800,000 miles.

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Cassini coasts beneath giant Saturn, staring upward at its gleaming crescent and icy rings. 
A great bull's-eye pattern is centered on the south pole, where a vast, hurricane-like storm spins. 
This view looks toward the lit side of the rings from about 26 degrees below the ring plane. The view was acquired about two hours prior to PIA08347 </catalog/PIA08347>. 
Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural-color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 30, 2007, at a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometers (700,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 61 kilometers (38 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 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

View from below

Cassini coasts beneath giant Saturn, staring upward at its gleaming crescent and icy rings. A great bull's-eye pattern is centered on the south pole, where a vast, hurricane-like storm spins. This view, obtained on Jan. 30, 2007, looks toward the lit side of the rings from about 26 degrees below the ring plane.

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Dark and sharply defined ring shadows appear to constrict the flow of color from Saturn's warmly hued south to the bluish northern latitudes. 
Scientists studying Saturn are not yet sure about the precise cause of the color change from north to south. NASA Voyager spacecraft flybys witnessed a more evenly painted planet in the early 1980s, when Saturn was closer to equinox. However, the bluish color was readily apparent upon Cassini's approach to the planet in late 2003, when Saturn was just coming out of its northern hemisphere winter. Scientists have speculated that the color is due to seasonal effects on the atmosphere. 
Aside from the color differences, the cloud morphology is quite different in the polar regions compared to the mid-latitudes. Bright, isolated clouds dot the high latitudes, while Saturn's middle is characterized by flowing cloud bands and the occasional bright or dark vortex. 
This view looks toward the lit side of the rings from about half a degree below the ring plane. 
Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural-color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb. 4, 2007, at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (700,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 67 kilometers (42 miles) per pixel.

Pastel planet

Dark and sharply defined ring shadows appear to constrict the flow of color from Saturn's warmly hued south to the bluish northern latitudes. Scientists studying Saturn are not yet sure about the precise cause of the color change from north to south. The different colors may be due to seasonal effects on the atmosphere. The images that went into this mosaic were obtained by the Cassini spacecraft on Feb. 4, 2007.

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CASSINI

Ringing success

This ultraviolet image from the Cassini spacecraft shows the detailed composition of Saturn's outer C and inner B rings from left to right, with the inner B ring beginning a little more than halfway across the image. The general pattern is from "dirty" red particles to the denser ice shown in turquoise as the ringlets spread outward.

University Of Colorado, Lasp / UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, LASP
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IMAGE FROM CASSINI SPACECRAFT OF RINGS OF PLANET SATURN

A is for amazing

This ultraviolet image shows the A ring, beginning with a 'dirty' interior of red followed by a general pattern of more turquoise as it spreads away from the planet, indicating a denser material made up of ice. The red band roughly three-fourths of the way outward in the A ring is known as the Encke gap.

Ho / X80001
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IMAGE SHOWING SATURN CASTING A SHADOW OVER ITS RINGS TAKEN BY CASSINI SPACECRAFT

Casting a shadow

This image taken by Cassini shows the planet Saturn casting a shadow over its rings.

Ho / X80001
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Titan revealed

This is an infrared image of Titan, one of Saturn's moons, mapping the surface hidden beneath the moon's opaque atmosphere. Green areas represent water ice, while yellow areas have higher concentrations of hydrocarbons. The white spot is a methane cloud.

Nasa
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Ripples in the ring

Scallops in the ring on the left side of this image were likely caused by a Saturnian moon rolling along the edge. One bright ringlet is visible within the gap, and at least one other faint ringlet can be made out. "This is textbook ring physics, right there, in one image," says Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porco.

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Wisps in space

A close-up of one of Saturn's rings shows a wispy pattern of ripples that may have been stirred up by a moonlet's orbit. Such unprecedented views of ring details are possible because of the Cassini camera's resolution.

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