Cassini briefly turned its gaze from Saturn and its rings and moons to marvel at the Carina Nebula, a brilliant region 8,000 light years from our solar system and more than 200 light years across. Nearly every point of light in this image is a star in our galaxy, the Milky Way.
The nebula is a region of gas and dust made to glow by the ultraviolet light bursting from bright, hot and extremely massive young stars within. Darker regions in the scene are not devoid of stars; rather, they are areas where dense clouds of dust block the light from background stars.
This image and others like it are taken by the spacecraft from time to time for calibration purposes. Calibration images rarely contain such incredible sights. This one affirms Cassini's position as the farthest, working astronomical observatory ever established around our sun -- our eyes on the cosmos, a billion miles from Earth.
The image was taken using the Cassini wide-angle camera on May 14, 2005. The view is a 68-second, clear-filter exposure.
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.