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Target 1: Saturn & Rings

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Target 1: Saturn & Rings

Bobak Ferdowsi

Science Planner Engineer

Saturn and its rings
Software used by the Cassini science planning team simulates the field of view the cameras on board the Cassini spacecraft can capture at a specific date and time. This is a computer-generated image of Saturn and its rings as seen by the Cassini spacecraft's Wide Angle Camera on Oct. 11, 2009. Click on the image for a larger view.

Hi. I'm Bobak, a Science Planner on the Cassini mission.

Let me tell you why a Wide Angle Camera shot of Saturn's ring system is the most exciting science target, aside from the fact that itís a lot prettier than the other two targets.

The rings continue to mystify scientists -- are they the remnants of a great moon ripped apart by tidal forces between Saturn and its other moons?
Are they scraps of leftovers from when Saturn was formed?

Some of the water in the E ring comes from eruptions on Enceladus, and other rings could contain material from meteorite impacts -- but what else are the rings made of?

There are so many questions to be asked about Saturn and its rings: how do they vary across seasons, how do spokes form and how long will the rings last?
Near equinox, when the sun illuminates the rings from the side, we are able to see more of the shadows and spokes in the ring systems, making this camera shot even more valuable.

Right now, during equinox, images of the rings can help us understand the history of the rings as well as what they are today. We even have the chance to find new moonlets in the rings!

So what do you say? Let's take this gorgeous picture of Saturn and its rings.