The Cassini spacecraft took a break from imaging Saturn's rings as the planet approached its August 2009 equinox and snapped this close-up of the planet's atmosphere, revealing detailed and elaborate patterns in the clouds of the northern hemisphere.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 18, 2009 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 2.1 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 109 degrees. Image scale is 12 kilometers (7 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.