NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is once again showcasing its skills as a spectacular photographer after having snapped this truly stunning picture of Saturn and its largest moon, Titan.
The image, in which the cosmic bodies appear to be mimicking the Moon, was taken in violet light on August 11, 2013, using the probe’s wide-angle camera. The craft was some 1.1 million miles (1.7 million kilometers) from Saturn at the time.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Alongside tickling our visual senses, images such as this are helping further our understanding of the planet and its moons as they can provide us with important scientific information.
“More than just pretty pictures, high-phase observations- taken looking generally toward the Sun, as in this image- are very powerful scientifically since the way atmospheres and rings transmit sunlight is often diagnostic of compositions and physical states,” NASA said in a statement. “In this example, Titan’s crescent nearly encircles its disk due to the small haze particles high in its atmosphere scattering the incoming light of the distant Sun.”
Cassini has been whizzing around Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun, for more than ten years now after being sent into space in 1997. Since it was put into orbit, it has made some incredible discoveries about the gas giant and its vast array of intriguing moons. For example, the mission has revealed the unexpected similarities between Titan and Earth, such as its possession of lakes, rivers, snow, clouds and possibly even volcanoes. But rather than featuring water systems like on our planet, its surface liquid takes the form of methane and ethane.
During its time spent encircling Saturn, Cassini
has taken numerous photographs of Titan. Earlier this week, for example, we received a spectacular image of sunlight twinkling off of the satellite’s seas, which had never been seen before.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho
Cassini should continue its mission until at least 2017, when the craft will intentionally kamikaze into the ringed planet’s atmosphere, ending its journey in a fiery manner.