Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Another amazing Cassini photo...

Saturn's moon Dione is placed in a setting here that's straight out of one of those awful pulp science-fiction paperbacks -- the bright grey moon set against the majesty of the giant planet Saturn. From the Cassini web site:

Speeding toward pale, icy Dione, Cassini's view is enriched by the tranquil gold and blue hues of Saturn in the distance. The horizontal stripes near the bottom of the image are Saturn's rings. The spacecraft was nearly in the plane of the rings when the images were taken, thinning them by perspective and masking their awesome scale. The thin, curving shadows of the C ring and part of the B ring adorn the northern latitudes visible here, a reminder of the rings' grandeur.

It is notable that Dione, like most of the other icy Saturnian satellites, looks no different in natural color than in monochrome images.

Images taken on Oct. 11, 2005, with blue, green and infrared (centered at 752 nanometers) spectral filters were used to create this color view, which approximates the scene as it would appear to the human eye. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera at a distance of approximately 39,000 kilometers (24,200 miles) from Dione and at a Sun-Dione-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 22 degrees. The image scale is about 2 kilometers (1 mile) per pixel.

When I first saw this image, I thought that the edge-on rings were some kind of camera artifact, and I thought that the ring's shadows were the result of either a time exposure or some artist "cleaning up" the photo. The fact that those are real elements in the photo -- we'd see them if we were there -- makes this somehow even more astonishing to me.

Oh, what I would give to be able to take a seat in Cassini, and see with my own eyes what our precocious robot is seeing...

As usual, click on the photo for a larger view...

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