NASA has released a mosaic image taken by the Cassini spacecraft which shows the first ever natural-color image of Saturn, its moon and rings, Earth, Venus, and Mars.
Cassini’sImaging Science Subsystem, which is used to capture images, includes a CCD image sensor comprised of a 1,024 square array of pixels, each 12 µm on a side, a focal length of 200mm, and a field of view of 3.5°. The camera’s data system allows for on-chip summing and data compression and its two filter wheels, each of which has nine filters, allows for the camera to capture images at specific wavelengths of light.
Thepanoramic image, which shows the view as it would be seen by human eyes, was created as a result of Cassini’s imaging team processing 141 wide-angle images, according to NASA. The image shows a span of 404,880 miles across Saturn and its inner ring system, including the E ring, which is the sound outermost ring. NASA puts it into perspective by noting that the distance between Earth and our moon would fit comfortably inside the span of the E ring.
Because the sun is so close to Earth, Cassini must find the opportune time to captureimages of Earth. In this particular instance, the sun slipped behind Saturn from Cassini’s point of view, and the imaging system was able to capture an image of Earth and its moon, along with Venus, Mars, and Saturn.
In the press release, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Linda Spilker said that Cassini aims to study Saturn’s system from as many angles as possible.
"Beyond showing us the beauty of the Ringed Planet, data like these also improve our understanding of the history of the faint rings around Saturn and the way disks around planets form -- clues to how our own solar system formed around the sun," she said.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, theEuropean Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA. The VIMS team is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
View theNASA news release.
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