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Epimetheus Above the Rings

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Posted November 10, 2015

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Although Epimetheus appears to be lurking above the rings here, it’s actually just an illusion resulting from the viewing angle. In reality, Epimetheus and the rings both orbit in Saturn’s equatorial plane.

Inner moons and rings orbit very near the equatorial plane of each of the four giant planets in our solar system, but more distant moons can have orbits wildly out of the equatorial plane. It has been theorized that the highly inclined orbits of the outer, distant moons are remnants of the random directions from which they approached the planets they orbit.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about -0.3 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 26, 2015.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 500,000 miles (800,000 kilometers) from Epimetheus and at a Sun-Epimetheus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 62 degrees. Image scale is 3 miles (5 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology 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.

Source: NASA

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