The Ghost and the Darkness

Shadow cast by F ring material
Shadow cast by F ring material

A spectral figure casts a long shadow as it travels along the path of Saturn’s F ring on August 7, 2009 in this image from the Cassini orbiter.

Detail
Detail

Not a ghost per se but rather a clump of ring material, pulled upwards from the rest of the ring plane by what is perhaps a small moonlet embedded in the ropy strands, the structure sends a shadow down upon the rings in the direct light of Saturn’s spring equinox. It was today, August 11, and from our perspective on Earth the giant rings of Saturn appear to vanish as their mere 30-foot thickness is viewed perfectly edge-on.

From this day forward, for the next 14 years Saturn’s rigs will be illuminated on their underside until the planet’s autumn equinox occurs, at which point the process reverses for the rest of its 28-year-long revolution around the sun.

More information about Saturn’s equinox can be found on the Cassini imaging center’s site here.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

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One Comment

  1. Smax says:

    Can you change your settings, sir so that a viewer can scroll continuously through a longer selection of entries instead of a few? That would be great,

    Smax

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