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This view of the ringed planet shows its tilt relative to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. The planet tilts nearly 27 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane, giving rise to seasons in which the rings shadow each hemisphere in its respective winter.
Most of the planetary bodies in the Solar System orbit near the plane of the ecliptic, since they formed along with the Sun from a spinning disk of gas and dust.
The high phase angle – the Sun-Saturn-spacecraft viewing angle, which is 116 degrees here – brings out cloud structure quite nicely.
The image was taken in polarized infrared light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on March 11, 2006, at a distance of approximately 2.8 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 165 kilometers (103 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.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute