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Emily LakdawallaJune 2, 2011

Color versions of the recent Titan & moon beauty shots

Last week I got very excited about a set of pictures that had appeared on Cassini's raw images website, but was sad that I couldn't make color versions myself. I was so excited that I failed to identify the little icy moon in the picture correctly -- at the time I said it was Enceladus, but it's been pointed out to me that it's actually two different moons, Dione and Tethys, neither of which is Enceladus. Sorry!

Anyway, I'm very happy that I can now share color versions with you, courtesy of Ian Regan and Sean Walker. First, Ian's image, which is composed of images taken when Dione was passing behind Titan while both were in front of Saturn and the rings. The rings, viewed edge-on, are just a skinny line, but they make their presence known in the shadows they throw onto Saturn's southern hemisphere:

Titan and Dione with Saturn and rings

NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / color composite by Ian Regan

Titan and Dione with Saturn and rings
On 21 May 2011, Cassini saw Dione pass behind Titan as both passed in front of the yellow bulk of planet Saturn. High-altitude haze above Titan makes a brown ring around it, through which Saturnlight shines.

This other image shows Titan with Tethys. Tethys and Dione are nearly identical in size, but Tethys appears relatively smaller here because it is closer to Saturn than Dione (and thus more distant from Cassini). Look carefully at the "black" background in this photo and you'll see that Saturn's night side is also visible, at least its northern hemisphere, which is lit by sunlight reflected off of the rings.

Titan, Tethys, rings, and ringlit Saturn

NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / color composite by Sean Walker

Titan, Tethys, rings, and ringlit Saturn
On 22 May, Cassini saw Tethys passing behind Titan as both appeared close to Saturn. Saturn's limb is actually in the image -- its ringlit northern hemisphere is visible as a curving patch of dark gray on the upper left.

Cool stuff! While I'm posting pictures of moons posing in front of Saturn, I have to add this one that was recently shared by Mike Malaska. Unlike the two images above, this view, of Helene in front of Saturn, was made from data released to the Planetary Data System.

Helene and Saturn

NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Mike Malaska

Helene and Saturn
On 3 March 2010, Cassini flew closely by Helene and caught several images of it silhouetted against Saturn.

Read more: Dione, Tethys, Cassini, Saturn's irregular moons, Saturn's moons, Saturn, Saturn's rings

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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