Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saturn at equinox

Saturn at equinox: "
Checking in with NASA's Cassini spacecraft, our current emissary to Saturn, some 1.5 billion kilometers (932 million miles) distant from Earth, we find it recently gathering images of the Saturnian system at equinox. During the equinox, the sunlight casts long shadows across Saturn's rings, highlighting previously known phenomena and revealing a few never-before seen images. Cassini continues to orbit Saturn, part of its extended Equinox Mission, funded through through September 2010. A proposal for a further extension is under consideration, one that would keep Cassini in orbit until 2017, ending with a spectacular series of orbits inside the rings followed by a suicide plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15, 2017. (previously: 1, 2, 3). (23 photos total)

From 20 degrees above the ring plane, Cassini's wide angle camera shot 75 exposures in succession for this mosaic showing Saturn, its rings, and a few of its moons a day and a half after exact Saturn equinox, when the sun's disk was exactly overhead at the planet's equator. The images were taken on Aug. 12, 2009, at a distance of approximately 847,000 km (526,000 mi) from Saturn. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)


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