This newly released movie sequence of images from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft offers a unique perspective on Saturn’s ring system.
Cassini captured the images from within the gap between the planet and its rings, looking outward as the spacecraft made one of its final dives through the gap as part of the mission’s Grand Finale.
Using its wide-angle camera, Cassini took the 21 images in the sequence over a span of about four minutes during its dive through the gap on August 20, 2017. The images have an original size of 512 x 512 pixels; the smaller image size allowed for more images to be taken over the short span of time.
The entirety of the main rings can be seen here, but due to the low viewing angle, the rings appear extremely foreshortened. The perspective shifts from the sunlit side of the rings to the unlit side, where sunlight filters through. On the sunlit side, the grayish C ring looks larger in the foreground because it is closer; beyond it is the bright B ring and slightly less-bright A ring, with the Cassini Division between them. The F ring is also fairly easy to make out.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed, and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.