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Cruising with Pan
Saturn’s small, walnut-shaped moon, Pan, embedded in the planet’s rings, coasts along in this movie clip from the Cassini spacecraft.
The movie begins with Pan (26 kilometers, or 16 miles across) and the rings against the night side of Saturn. Cassini stays fixed on Pan as the moon heads toward the outside edge, or ansa, of the Encke Gap (325 kilometers, or 200 miles wide) in which it orbits. Saturn’s dark shadow is seen stretching across the middle of the ringplane. Midway through the sequence, the far side of the rings emerges from behind the planet, but eventually is completely darkened by Saturn’s shadow.
The small, bright moving object that appears from the lower left, near the end of the sequence, is a bright background star.
The 40 images in this movie were taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 29, 2006, at a distance of approximately 209,000 kilometers (130,000 miles) from Pan. The image scale is approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 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