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The dark shadows that drape Saturn’s northern latitudes are split by three familiar bright gaps. From bottom to top, sunlight passes through the broad Cassini Division (4,800 kilometers, or 2,980 miles wide), the Encke gap (325 kilometers, or 200 miles wide) and (barely visible) the Keeler gap (42 kilometers, or 26 miles wide).
It is unlikely that the shadows cast by Saturn’s rings have much of an effect on the large-scale movements of the atmosphere. The dynamic clouds of this gas giant are driven by processes going on much deeper inside the planet, where sunlight does not penetrate.
The image was taken using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The image was acquired with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on April 28, 2006 at a distance of approximately 377,000 kilometers (234,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 19 kilometers (12 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