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This mosaic of Saturn’s rings was acquired by Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer instrument on Sept. 15, 2006, while the spacecraft was in the shadow of the planet looking back towards the rings from a distance of 2.16 million kilometers (1.34 million miles).
Data at wavelengths of 1.0 micron, 1.75 micron and 3.6 microns were combined in the blue, green and red channels to make the pseudo-color image shown here.
The brightest feature in the mosaic is the F ring, located at the outer edge of the main rings. The F ring is overexposed and appears white in this image. Of the main A, B and C rings; the C ring is the most prominent and reddish in color, becoming saturated close to the sun. The more opaque A and B rings are muddy in color and very dark in this geometry.
By contrast, the normally faint D ring, located just interior to the C ring, is quite bright and blue, indicating the presence of very small ring particles. Similarly, a narrow, green ringlet in the Cassini Division, as well as the greenish G ring and blue E ring – located at increasing distances outside the F ring – are predominantly composed of small particles. The faint reddish band immediately outside the F ring is likely to be an artifact caused by the extremely bright F ring.
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 visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona where this image was produced.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona