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Emily LakdawallaNovember 1, 2002

Cassini Captures Its First Image of Saturn

The Cassini spacecraft has captured its first image of its target planet, Saturn.

Cassini's first view of Saturn and Titan

NASA / JPL / SSI

Cassini's first view of Saturn and Titan
Taken on October 21, 2002 as part of an engineering test of the camera system, the image clearly shows the planet Saturn, its ring system, and the dark Cassini division between the brighter inner rings and darker outer rings. The image is a color composite of three taken by the narrow-angle camera through different filters, showing the colors of Saturn approximately as the human eye would see them. The spacecraft was 285 million kilometers away from the planet, nearly twice the distance between the Sun and Earth, when this image was captured.

Also visible as a bright dot in the upper left of the image is Titan, Saturn's largest moon. In order to make Titan more visible in this image, its brightness was increased relative to the planet's brightness by a factor of 3. Although Titan is the second largest moon in the Solar System (smaller only than Jupiter's moon Ganymede and larger than the planets Mercury and Pluto), at Cassini's distance from the Saturn system the giant moon spans only slightly more than one pixel of this image.

As of November 1, 2002, Cassini was traveling at almost 30 kilometers per second (18 miles per second) toward its rendezvous with Saturn. The spacecraft will enter orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004.

Read more: pretty pictures, Cassini, Titan, mission status, Saturn's moons, Saturn

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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