Although Innerspace.net tends to focus on Mars as the most inhabitable planet outside Earth, Saturn’s system holds a unique fascination, much of it due to the amazing Cassini space probe. It is also the case because even though it is much further out than Jupiter and its many moons, Saturn’s system does not present the extreme radiation environment found in the vicinity of the largest planet.
For the crewed spacecraft which someday approaches the Saturnian system, (as well as the spacecraft there today) it is in some way analogous to what it might be like to enter a new solar solar system entirely. From hydrocarbon lakes on Titan to ice geysers on Enceladus, as well as smaller moons such as Mimas and of course the rings themselves, with their own tiny moonlets, we can only envy first explorers to witness it up close. For the time being however, Cassini is providing a steady stream of new data and images.
NASA/JPL News Story
Dot Against the Dark
As if trying to get our attention, Mimas is positioned against the shadow of Saturn’s rings, bright on dark. As we near summer in Saturn’s northern hemisphere, the rings cast ever larger shadows on the planet.
With a reflectivity of about 96 percent, Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers across) appears bright against the less-reflective Saturn.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 10 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 13, 2014 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Saturn and approximately 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Mimas. Image scale is 67 miles (108 kilometers) per pixel at Saturn and 60 miles (97 kilometers) per pixel at Mimas.
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.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .