NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this image of the star Rigel passing behind Saturn’s atmosphere. Rigel is well known to astronomers, as one of the brightest stars in the constellation of Orion. This event allows Cassini to measure the haze structure and opacity of Saturn’s upper atmosphere as the star is dimmed. Cassini took this image on June 30, 2004 when it was 446,000 kilometers (277,000 miles) from Saturn.
The Cassini spacecraft continues to profile the haze structure and opacity in Saturn’s upper atmosphere with images like this, which captures Rigel, a star in Orion whose brightness is well-known, as it passes behind the planet.
The extent to which the star’s light is dimmed tells scientists about the sizes and amounts of the molecules and tiny particles that make up the atmospheric hazes.
The image was taken in visible red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 30, 2004 at a distance of approximately 446,000 kilometers (277,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 3 kilometers (2 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, 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, D.C. 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, Colo.
Original Source: NASA/JPL/SSI News Release