New Delhi: NASA's Cassini mission is currently in its grand finale phase and is inching toward its graceful finish. At present, the spacecraft is performing flybys of the planet Saturn, making its closest approaches to the rings.
The mission, which is about to end in September this year with Cassini performing a death plunge into the gas giant, has definitely been a fruitful one owing to all the wonderfully insightful information scientists have managed to glean from it.
Every new image beamed back by Cassini during its last mission has come bearing some evolutionary secret or shows an unpredictable side of the planet or a feature that would have otherwise been impossible to envisage.
Now, NASA has shared an image photographed by Cassini which shows the ringed beauty glowing in the morning light.
The planet’s wavy cloud patterns and the smooth arcs of the vast rings are clearly visible and look gorgeous as the light glints off them.
According to NASA, the light has traveled around 80 minutes since it left the sun's surface by the time it reaches Saturn. The illumination it provides is feeble; Earth gets 100 times the intensity since it's roughly ten times closer to the sun. Yet compared to the deep blackness of space, everything at Saturn still shines bright in the sunlight, be it direct or reflected.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 10 degrees above the ring plane.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb. 25, 2017 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 939 nanometers.