Flying over the unlit side of Saturn’s rings, the Cassini spacecraft captures the planet’s glow, represented in brilliant shades of electric blue, sapphire and mint green, while the planet’s shadow casts a wide net on the rings.
This striking false-color mosaic was created from 25 images taken by Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer over a period of 13 hours, and captures Saturn in nighttime and daytime conditions.
This image was acquired on Feb. 24, 2007, when Cassini was 1.58 million kilometers (1 million miles) from the planet and 34.6 degrees above the ring plane. The solar phase angle was 69.5 degrees. In this view, Cassini was looking down on the northern, unlit side of the rings, which are rendered visible by sunlight filtering through from the sunlit, southern face.
A pronounced difference in the brightness between the northern and southern hemispheres is apparent. The northern hemisphere is about twice as bright as the southern hemisphere. This is because high-level, fine particles are about half as prevalent in the northern hemisphere as in the south. These particles block Saturn’s glow more strongly, making Saturn look brighter in the north.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona