Saturn, Darkly

Most images of Saturn and its rings are taken with exposures that make the rings appear much brighter and more visible than seen here. But sometimes, astronomers want to take a closer look at the light that the rings scatter back toward its source, the Sun.

This is just one such image, where the exposure is kept shorter, and the rings thus darker, in part because of the light that is being reflected back toward the the Sun and away from the camera. With the Sun at a high angle (152 degrees) relative to the rings and the Cassini spacecraft, and with Cassini just 6 degrees above the ringplane, scientists can study the way the rings scatter light to better understand their composition and structure.

Taken using its wide-angle camera, Cassini was approximately 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Saturn when it took this shot earlier this year.


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute