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The Cassini spacecraft captured this dramatic view of the unilluminated side of Saturn’s rings seen at a high phase angle.
Phase angle refers to the angle formed by the Sun, the object being viewed (the rings) and the spacecraft. At an angle of zero degrees the Sun is directly behind Cassini; at 180 degrees the Sun is directly in front of the spacecraft.
Many otherwise faint ring features brighten substantially when viewed at high phase. In this image, normally faint regions within the D and inner C rings can be seen extending from lower right toward center.
The many small specks in the image were created by cosmic rays striking the camera’s detector.
This view looks toward the rings from about 2 degrees above the ringplane. The planet’s shadow darkens the scene at lower right.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb. 20, 2008. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 211,000 kilometers (131,000 miles) from Saturn and at a phase angle of 166 degrees. Image scale on the sky at the distance of Saturn is 9 kilometers (6 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