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A brilliant spot of sunlight, the opposition effect, travels outward across the rings as the Cassini spacecraft orbits Saturn. This surge in ring brightness is created around the point directly opposite the Sun from the spacecraft.
This movie sequence of 29 images shows the opposition surge moving from the outer B ring, across the sparsely populated Cassini Division and onto the A ring. From Cassini’s perspective, the rings are seen projected onto the planet where the ring shadows can be seen through the rings. This perspective, including rings and ring shadows, changes continuously during the sequence, giving the false impression that the ring features themselves are changing.
This image sequence was taken over 15 minutes on Aug. 16, 2006. The images were acquired in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera at a distance of approximately 253,000 kilometers (157,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 15 kilometers (9 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