April 27, 2010
Part of the shadow of Saturn's moon Epimetheus appears as if it has been woven through the planet's rings in this Cassini image taken about a month and a half before the planet's August 2009 equinox.
Epimetheus itself is not shown, but the moon casts a shadow whose appearance varies based on the density of particles across the rings. See Shadow from the Dark Side and Weaving a Shadow to learn more.
The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane, significantly darkens the rings, and causes out-of-plane structures to look anomalously bright and cast shadows across 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. Before and after equinox, Cassini's cameras have spotted not only the predictable shadows of some of Saturn's moons (see Across Resplendent Rings), but also the shadows of newly revealed vertical structures in the rings themselves (see A Small Find Near Equinox).
This view looks toward the northern, unilluminated side of the rings from about 45 degrees above the ringplane.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 26, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 943,000 kilometers (586,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 5 kilometers (3 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