Shadow Misses a Ring
July 24, 2009
The moon Pandora casts a shadow onto Saturn's A ring but not the F ring.
Pandora (81 kilometers, or 50 miles across) can be seen at the bottom of the image. Because Pandora is on an inclined orbit, its shadow can fall on the main rings, but entirely miss the F ring.
The novel illumination geometry created as Saturn approaches its August 2009 equinox allows moons orbiting in or near the plane of Saturn's equatorial rings to cast shadows onto the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. To learn more about this special time and to see movies of moons' shadows moving across the rings, see Moon Shadow in Motion and Weaving a Shadow.
This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 53 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 1, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.7 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) from Pandora and at a Sun-Pandora-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 98 degrees. Image scale is 10 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.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute