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Emily LakdawallaJune 26, 2008

Cassini camera data has been released through September 30, 2007

The Cassini camera team has delivered early on the scheduled July 1 release of data to the Planetary Data System, the archive from which all researchers (and members of the public) can locate and retrieve data from nearly every NASA (and some non-NASA) missions. The camera team -- and all the other teams -- are required to deliver data on a quarterly basis, with everything delivered within nine to twelve months of its acquisition. So the release includes all data from July 1 to September 30, 2007, and that includes all the data from the close encounter with Iapetus. I have not yet had time to explore this bonanza, but I want to share with you this lovely panorama put togther by Gordan Ugarkovic.

Saturn's rings, Mimas, Pan, and Prometheus

NASA / JPL / SSI / color mosaic by Gordan Ugarkovic

Saturn's rings, Mimas, Pan, and Prometheus
This view of the sunlit (southern) side of Saturn's rings was captured by Cassini on October 3, 2007, a week before its one and only encounter with Iapetus. Five separate pointings of Cassini's narrow-angle camera were necessary to produce this approximate true-color view, assembled from the calibrated mission data by Gordan Ugarkovic. Mimas is the bright speck above the rings, with its giant crater Herschel clearly visible upon enlargement. Near the left ansa (edge) of the rings, tiny Pan orbits within the narrow Encke gap. And, below the main rings, potato-shaped Prometheus sits atop the very faint F ring. Pan and Prometheus are only visible when the image is enlarged to its full size.
It was taken by Cassini a week before the Iapetus flyby; to fly by Iapetus, Cassini was on a particularly long, looping orbit, giving it an excellent view of the whole Saturn system. The geometry of this view is similar to that in the "View from Iapetus" image I highlighted in the 2007 Year in Pictures feature, but this view utilizes the narrow-angle camera, which has 10 times the resolution of the wide-angle camera that was used for the full Saturn family portrait. So if you click to enlarge this image you can see all kinds of beautiful structure in the rings, plus features on Mimas, and the tiny moons Pan and Prometheus lurking among the rings. Pretty!

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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