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Cassini instruments provide complementary information about the structure of Saturn’s rings. Narrow and wide angle cameras provide images in the visible region of the electromagnetic, spectrum much like a digital camera does. The images have information about how the ring structure differs both with distance from the planet and with position around the equatorial circle. However, resolution is usually limited to few kilometers at best.
Radio and stellar occultations of the rings also provide important information about ring structure, but only along a one-dimensional track through the rings. The radial resolution can be as fine as 50 meters (164 feet). An “image” is then constructed by assuming circular symmetry over the ring region of interest. Color is usually added to encode other information related to the observed structure.
This image compares structure of Saturn’s rings observed by these two approaches. The upper half is a natural color mosaic of images by the Cassini narrow-angle camera (see PIA06175). The bottom simulated images is constructed from a radio occultation observation conducted on May 3, 2005. Color in the lower image is used to represent information about ring particle sizes. For another view created using this process (see PIA07872).
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 was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radio science team is based at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. For more information on the radio science team visit saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/radio-science-subsystem. The imaging team homepage is at ciclops.org.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute