The Cassini spacecraft gazes toward a distant star as Saturn's rings slip past in the foreground. At upper left is the outer A ring, with its dark Keeler Gap. At lower right, a train of bright clumps shuttles past in the wispy F ring.
A temporal sequence of images like this allows Cassini scientists to correlate features in the rings with stellar occultation data acquired by other instruments. As the star passes behind the rings, the changes in its brightness indicate how much empty space is between particles at different locations on the rings.
This view looks toward the lit side of the rings from about 56 degrees below the ringplane.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 30, 2006 at a distance of approximately 633,440 kilometers (393,686 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 4 kilometers (2 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute