Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2004 May 31
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

24 Million Kilometers to Saturn
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Next stop: Saturn. The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is approaching Saturn and will fire its engines to break into orbit around the ringed giant on July 1. The robot spacecraft was launched in 1997 and rounded Jupiter in 2001. As Cassini orbits Saturn over the next four years, it will swoop past many of Saturn's moons for unprecedented close-ups and even drop a probe onto Titan. Pictured above, Cassini imaged Saturn two weeks ago as it closed to only 24 million kilometers out. Visible are complex cloud patterns, thousands of rings, a shadow angle not visible from Earth, and a moon (if you can find it).

Tomorrow's picture: smoking galaxy

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