Saturn, the jewel of our solar system, reigns supreme in this spectacular new photo from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which also captured the planet's stunning rings and the tiny moon Dione.
Typically, images of Saturn snapped by Cassini are oriented north up. But in this rarely seen image, which NASA released on Monday (April 4), Cassini reveals the massive planet, its rings and the terminator — the dividing line between darkness and light — at a 20-degree slant. As the planet approaches the northern summer solstice, Saturn's northern pole is sunlit the entire duration of the planet's day.
In the black-and-white image, the diminuitive moon Dione — one of Saturn's 62 known satellites — can be seen only as a tiny speck of light at 698 miles (1,123 kilometers) across in the lower left corner. [Saturn's Glorious Rings: Amazing Photos]
Cassini captured this view of Saturn on Feb. 19 using its wide-angle camera. At the time, Cassini was about 1.2 million miles (1.9 million km) away from Saturn and had a view of the sunlit side of the planet from about 7 degrees above the ring plane, according to a NASA image description.
A combined initiative of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California oversees the Cassini mission. From detecting liquid water on the moon Enceladus to a monster methane lake on Titan, countless revelations about Saturn and its system have been returned to Earth by the Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras.
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Christine Lunsford joined the Space.com team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with Space.com, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.