Magical Mystery Tour

Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 04:45 am EDT

Contributed by: bobmoody

NASA's Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn since January of 2005 has taken yet another dramatically important image of the Ring World. Who could have forseen this wonderful image taken as Cassini moved through the shadows of the Saturnian night looking back at both the Sun, and our own Earth!

Its a sort of over-the-shoulder image taken by Cassini's camera's as the spacecraft sped through the darkness of Saturn's night side and looked back beyond Saturn towards the Sun. The outermost diffuse "E" ring is the newly discovered ring created by water ice spewing from the ice-fountains of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Saturn's beauty is seen anew at almost every orbit around the Gas Giant turned in by the robotic Cassini spacecraft. Giovanni Cassini was the first to discover a gap in the Rings of Saturn with a telescope dividing them into the wider inner ring and the narrower outer ring. This gap is named the "Cassini Division" in honor of him. How fitting that the spacecraft that bares his name should have discovered the newest "ring" of the system created by the orbiting moon Enceladus as its water-ice fountains spew their material into space along its orbit.

This image comes from the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for October 16, 2006. CLICK HERE to see the image in larger and finer detail. By doing so, you'll also see a small dot just above the bright rings and slightly inside the narrowest sharp ring. It can easily be mistaken as one of Saturn's 35+ moons, but in reality, that's you, on Earth, that Cassini is looking back towards!

For continuously changing updates on the Cassini mission to Saturn, go to the Cassini Home Page and consider making it one of your "Favorites" or mark it with a "Bookmark", depending on your browser's home page. Check it once or twice a week to see all the newest images and science discoveries at Saturn's distance of roughly 750,000,000 miles from home.

Or you might want to review all of our AOAS website stories about Saturn and the Cassini/Huygens mission to the Ring World by clicking on the "Lunar and Planetary" section. This allows visitors to pull up our entire listing of stories about Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, as well as any recent comets and/or stories about asteroids.

It's still two more years before Cassini's original mission comes to its end, yet due to the spacecraft yielding SO MUCH data over the 4-year life span of the mission, we will likely see another 2, or maybe even another 4 years added on to the mission. One thing is almost certain, someday we will have another return trip to Saturn with an even more "magically" sophisticated and wonderous spacecraft giving us even more info on this beautiful planet. What new wonders will await us then?

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