*** This is the earliest available image ***
Pan's Very Own Shadow
Click on the Image for Figure 1
Wendy Darling famously helped Peter Pan catch his shadow, and now Cassini
captures the shadow of another Pan: Saturn's 30-kilometer (19-mile) wide
moon inhabiting the Encke Gap.
In the center of this image, the shadow of Pan is a short streak thrown
over the edge of the A ring where Pan travels its path through the Encke
Gap. A second version of this image has been included to focus on Pan's
shadow. The image has been scaled to three times its original size and
cropped as shown in Fig. 1.
One of the happy results of Saturn's 29-year revolution around the sun is
the changing elevation of the sun seen from the planet, and the changing
elevation of the shadows of the rings and moons that the sun's apparent
As Saturn approaches equinox, the angle at which the ringplane is inclined
away from the sun will continue to decrease until August 2009, when
equinox will bring about an alignment of the plane containing the rings
with the rays of the sun. Only around the time of equinox is a moon's
shadow cast on the rings rather than the planet.
Between now and equinox in August, the shadows cast by the moons on the
rings will grow longer with time.
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.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/. The Cassini imaging team
homepage is at http://ciclops.org.
courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
image id: PIA11652