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.

2009 January 11
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In the Shadow of Saturn
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: In the shadow of Saturn, unexpected wonders appear. The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn recently drifted in giant planet's shadow for about 12 hours and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. First, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Next, the rings themselves appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but quite bright when viewed away from Saturn, slightly scattering sunlight, in this exaggerated color image. Saturn's rings light up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in the image. Seen in spectacular detail, however, is Saturn's E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus and the outermost ring visible above. Far in the distance, at the left, just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth.

Tomorrow's picture: mystery pillars

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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