New Delhi: NASA's Cassini mission's aim of investigating Saturn is truly a fruitful one, owing to all the wonderfully insightful information it has managed to beam back to the scientists.
Cassini, which is presently completing its final leg of the Saturn probe, captured an image of the magnificent ringed planet, looking down upon it from its nightside.
The image shows the darkened globe of Saturn casting an enormous shadow across the rings. The rings remain in sunlight, apart from the portion that lies within Saturn's shadow.
The beauty of it lies in the fact that the rings also reflect sunlight back onto the night side of the planet, making it appear brighter than it would otherwise.
NASA describes the photograph saying that, Saturn's small moon Prometheus (53 miles or 86 kilometers across) is faintly visible as a speck near upper left. The shadow of Saturn was once long enough to stretch to the orbit of Prometheus. But as northern summer solstice approaches, Saturn's shadow no longer reaches that far (see PIA20498). So Prometheus will not move into the darkness of the planet's shadow until the march of the seasons again causes the shadow to lengthen.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 41 degrees above the ring plane.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 870,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 87 degrees. Image scale is 53 miles (86 kilometers) per pixel. Prometheus has been brightened by a factor of two to enhance its visibility.