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Saturn’s low density and fast rotation combine to give it its characteristic oblate shape. The dramatic crescent seen here demonstrates how the ringed planet is much wider at the equator than at the poles.
The rings disappear near center into the darkness of the planet’s shadow.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 11, 2006 at a distance of approximately 2.9 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 163 degrees. Image scale is 169 kilometers (105 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