Whoa. (New Cassini photo)

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So far, most of the results from the Cassini mission have been scientifically interesting, but, well, not much to look at. Most of the photos have been black-and-white. However, today JPL put up a color composite that deserves some kind of award for science photograph of the year.

Whoa. And again I say, whoa. This definitely belongs in the “amazing things simple physics can do” category. For the higher resolution version and the caption, see the main body of the post.

Here is a bigger version.

Original Caption Released with Image: In a splendid portrait created by light and gravity, Saturn’s lonely moon Mimas is seen against the cool, blue-streaked backdrop of Saturn’s northern hemisphere. Delicate shadows cast by the rings arc gracefully across the planet, fading into darkness on Saturn’s night side.

The part of the atmosphere seen here appears darker and more bluish than the warm brown and gold hues seen in Cassini images of the southern hemisphere, due to preferential scattering of blue wavelengths by the cloud-free upper atmosphere.

The bright blue swath near Mimas (398 kilometers, or 247 miles across) is created by sunlight passing through the Cassini division (4,800 kilometers, or 2,980 miles wide). The rightmost part of this distinctive feature is slightly overexposed and therefore bright white in this image. Shadows of several thin ringlets within the division can be seen here as well. The dark band that stretches across the center of the image is the shadow of Saturn’s B ring, the densest of the main rings. Part of the actual Cassini division appears at the bottom, along with the A ring and the narrow, outer F ring. The A ring is transparent enough that, from this viewing angle, the atmosphere and threadlike shadows cast by the inner C ring are visible through it.

Images taken with red, green and blue filters were combined to create this color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on Nov. 7, 2004, at a distance of 3.7 million kilometers (2.3 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 22 kilometers (14 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 Office of Space Science, 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.

The photo is archived at the NASA image catalog here. This is only one of the many recent close-ups of Saturn’s moons that were taken in late October. Also check out the best-yet global composite of Titan’s surface.

And remember, only 13 days until the next Titan flyby, and soon after that – on December 25, uncoicidentally – the Huygens probe separates from Cassini for a 21-day journey to drop into Titan’s atmosphere. Here’s the schedule, more schedule, and the plan. It would be quite some Christmas present if that goes off without a hitch.

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Yesterday NASA published this beautiful photo taken by the Cassini-Huygens probe. The blue background is Saturn's northern hemisphere; the... Read More

The image was photographed by the Cassini-Huygens probe en route to Saturn and Titan. (Via The Panda's Thumb) Read More

6 Comments

Most of the photos have been black-and-white.

Nitpick: All of Cassini’s photos are black-and-white as can be verified by looking at the raw images.

Cassini (and other probes) takes a series of B&W images through different color filters. People on Earth use software to combine these images into a color image.

This actually brings up a bit a pseudoscience which should interest readers of the Panda’s Thumb. It is a reminder that creationist don’t have a monopoly on loony views.

Naturally the process of creating color images is not perfect since the filters will not even remotely hit the same range/sensitivities as the cones in our eyes. Also consider that our brain is very much part of vision, etc. The end result is that often we don’t know precisely what colors would be seen by an astronaut if he was there with Cassini. This has resulted in charges that NASA is covering up the true colors of space. There have been a lot of nuts saying this about the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars. The chief nut is Richard Hoagland. Some of his claims are debunked on the Bad Astronomy website.

Today there is a new B&W image on the Cassini website that is really nice.

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Ah yes, I should have said “false color composite” instead of just “color composite” in the opening paragraph there. I believe the only way to really get “true” color is to have artificial targets of known color in the shots.

(and, Saturn in approximately true color is actually fairly bland, I think, compared to Jupiter)

Still, me lika color.

I say it just “shows to go ya”, the blending of art and science can be esthetically pleasing, pleasing enough to forgo the “well that might not quite be right” meme, if only such a blend with religion and science were possible. Of course it takes two to tango.

Another wow colorful picture:

Titans Many Layers

Another: That’s not a moon that a…whoops…that a moon (Dione)

More images and info at Titan-B and Dione Flyby Page

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Lets revive this thread for another unusually spectacular photo of Saturn taken by the Cassini probe.

The blues

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on November 29, 2004 11:44 PM.

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