As the ringed giant tugged on the Cassini spacecraft, urging it to make yet another orbit, the intrepid spacecraft took in this all-encompassing panorama. This view was acquired near apoapse -- the farthest point from Saturn in the Cassini spacecraft's elliptical orbit. Even from this distant vantage point, the planet and its rings were still too large to fit into a single frame; this view is a mosaic of two images.
The rings are the source of the dark, curving shadows on the northern hemisphere. Mimas (397 kilometers, or 247 miles across) is visible as a speck of light just above the rings at left.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 12, 2005, at a distance of approximately 3.2 million kilometers (2 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 87 degrees. The image scale is 193 kilometers (120 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.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.