Saturn’s graceful lanes of orbiting ice — its iconic rings — wind their way around the planet to pass beyond the horizon in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. And diminutive Pandora, scarcely larger than a pixel here, can be seen orbiting just beyond the F ring in this image.
Also in this image is the gap between Saturn’s cloud tops and its innermost D ring through which Cassini would pass 22 times before ending its mission in spectacular fashion in Sept. 15, 2017. Scientists scoured images of this region, particularly those taken at the high phase (spacecraft-ring-Sun) angles, looking for material that might pose a hazard to the spacecraft.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 19 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Aug. 12, 2017. Pandora was brightened by a factor of 2 to increase its visibility.
The view was obtained at a distance to Saturn of approximately 581,000 miles (935,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 35 miles (56 kilometers) per pixel. The distance to Pandora was 691,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) for a scale of 41 miles (66 kilometers) per pixel.
The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017.
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.