Saturn's southern atmosphere looms before Cassini, displaying rich detail in its swirls and bands. The bright, icy moon Enceladus (499 kilometers, or 310 miles across) appears near the bottom of the image.
This view was taken through a filter where methane gas is a moderate absorber of sunlight. Since methane gas is not present on Enceladus, its surface scatters a higher percentage of the light falling on it than Saturn does, making the moon appear very bright compared with the planet. Enceladus was dimmed in brightness by a factor of four during processing of the image, in order to make its brightness comparable to that of Saturn.
The rings show some fine structure here. The three main rings, C, B and A from innermost to outermost, are clearly defined by their differences in brightness.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on Sept. 19, 2004, at a distance of 8.3 million kilometers (5.2 million miles) from Saturn through a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 727 nanometers. The image scale is 49 kilometers (30 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 Cassini-Huygens 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 team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and the Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org .
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute