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Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Saturn portrait (April 13, 2017)

Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Saturn portrait (April 13, 2017)

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NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Ian Regan

Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Saturn portrait (April 13, 2017)

In the early hours of April 13, 2017, Cassini captured this breathtaking and unique visage of the Saturnian system as it coasted through space in the shadow of the gas giant.

Using its Wide-Angle Camera (part of the Imaging Science Subsystem), Cassini snapped 96 individual digital photos: these images consisted of Red, Green, and Blue-filtered frames, covering a total of 32 ‘footprints’. These 32 color frames were painstakingly combined to produce the final mosaic.

Cassini took nearly four hours to collect these data. In that time, the spacecraft was slowly cruising away from the planet, en route to apoapse (the point farthest from Saturn in any given orbit) of Revolution 269. The distance to the planet increased by 82,000 km in that time, and in the end, the distance to the cloud-tops equaled 650,040 km.

All components of the main ring system are visible, seen here illuminated from behind: a vantage point technically known as a ‘high-phase angle’. In this geometry, a peculiar reversal happens: the thinner and more translucent rings shine out brightly, while the more opaque and thicker regions are relatively dark.

Only two moons — Janus and Mimas — can be picked out in this uncalibrated and compressed data, in addition to a red-giant star in the constellation of Gemini: Tejat (μ Gem).

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and www.nasa.gov/cassini. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at ciclops.org.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. For uses not allowed by that license, contact us to request publication permission from the copyright holder: Ian Regan

Original image data dated on or about April 13, 2017

Explore related images: pretty pictures, Cassini, amateur image processing, best of, global views, Saturn, Saturn's rings

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