Cassini--The Mission Continues
As Saturn advanced in its orbit toward equinox and the sun gradually moved northward on the planet, the motion of Saturn's ring shadows and the changing colors of its atmosphere continued to transform the face of Saturn as seen by Cassini in this image from the mission's fourth year.
Cassini has been orbiting Saturn for five Earth years as of June 30, 2009. That's about one sixth of a Saturnian year, enough time for the spacecraft to have observed seasonal changes in the planet, its moons and sunlight's angle on the dramatic rings.
This captivating natural color view was created from images collected shortly after Cassini began its extended Equinox Mission in July 2008. The mosaic combines 30 images--10 each of red, green and blue light—taken over the course of approximately two hours as Cassini panned its wide-angle camera across the entire planet and ring system on July 23, 2008, from a southerly elevation of 6 degrees.
Six moons complete this constructed panorama (see the full-size image): Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers, across), Janus (111 miles, or 179 kilometers, across), Mimas (396 kilometers, or 246 miles, across), Pandora (81 kilometers, or 50 miles, across), Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers, across) and Enceladus (504 kilometers, or 313 miles, across).
Cassini captured these images at a distance of approximately 690,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 20 degrees.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute