Saturn in Eclipse
One of the most remarkable photos ever taken by a spacecraft! Cassini spacecraft imaging team leader Dr. Carolyn Porco had to fight conservative project management to point Cassini’s cameras at Saturn to take this photo.
Cassini had been thrust into a polar orbit of the Saturnian system, to gain a new perspective. As it passed behind Saturn, the scan platform was commanded to look at the ringed planet as it covered up the distant Sun.
In the shadow of Saturn, the main ring system was brightly backlit, as expected, but fainter rings suddenly became visible, delineating the complete extended ring system, including the E ring made up of ice-fog from erupting geysers on the moon Enceladus. The disk of Saturn is illuminated 360 degrees from the uppermost thin atmosphere glowing. A similar sight was seen on Apollo 12 as the Earth went into eclipse on their return from the Moon. The backside of Saturn is a complex hodgepodge of light and shadow from the illuminated, wraparound rings.
The Sun, with its “diamond ring” effect, is partially seen at about 7 o’clock on the orb of Saturn.
Most remarkable is the “Pale Blue Dot”, the planet Earth, just outside the bright rings at about 10 o’clock.
Image credit: Dr. Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team, NASA, ESA, JPL, and SSI.
Image size: 23×11 inches.
Trim size: 24×12 inches.
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