December 16, 2004
Jupiter's main ring is a narrow structure about 6,000 kilometers (about 3,700
miles) in width and about 100,000 times fainter than the planet it encircles.
These are the first pictures that NASA's Cassini spacecraft has taken of the
ring, a portion of which appears in each frame as an arc opening toward the
Image processing helped make the ring easier to see in these frames taken
with Cassini's narrow-angle camera during a 39.5-hour period beginning
Dec. 11, 2000. The distance between the spacecraft and Jupiter narrowed
during those hours, from 20.3 million kilometers (12.6 million miles) to
19 million kilometers (11.8 million miles). Also, Cassini's movement took
it from 3.3 degrees above the plane of the rings to 2.98 degrees above the
plane. The frames are in sequence from upper left to lower right. The image
of the ring's arc grows longer, as the spacecraft approaches the planet.
Resolution is about 230 kilometers (143 miles) per pixel. The 10 frames
shown here are each a small section of several separate narrow-angle images
taken through the camera's clear filter and spanning the entire 39.5 hour
period. The scattered light background has been removed, and the images have
been contrast-stretched to enhance the ring. The contours in the image, as
well as the small variations in brightness of the ring from one frame to
the next, are a result of the image processing and background removal.
Cassini 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 mission
for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
For higher resolution, click here.