Saturday, December 24, 2011

God's Own Christmas Ornament


In what is one of the best images ever taken by the Cassini spacecraft, Titan and Dione hang in front of Saturn's rings. Like Earth, Saturn has seasons caused by the tilt in its axis. It's presently spring, in Saturn's northern hemisphere. The sun is behind and above the viewpoint, and the shadows of the rings are cast across the southern hemisphere.

The image is in true colour, by the way, so it is exactly what you would see if you were floating in the observation cupola of a clipper outward bound from Rhea en route to Jupiter.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas - Nikki

December 24, 2011 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These images make me think of abstract art like Kandinsky's somehow distilled to greater clarity.

December 25, 2011 5:03 AM  
Blogger Gregory said...

How can it be true color when the background is not the black of space?

Gregory Benford

December 30, 2011 6:47 AM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Greg, There are other 'true colour' images of Saturn with deep space in the background. The colours of Saturn look in those as they do here. But I'm not sure exactly how 'true colour' is determined. The Cassini spacecraft takes sequential images with red, green and blue filters in front of its CCD sensors, and these images are combined back at NASA. Presumably there's some kind of reference system, but I have no idea what it is or how it is used, and a bit of light googling hasn't turned up anything useful. Anyone know?

December 30, 2011 11:03 AM  

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