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Saturn's Rings To Shine As Never Before


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Ring scientists have been waiting for this. Finally, after more than two years orbiting Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft reaches one of the ultimate vantage points. The rings should shine with majesty worthy of the "Jewel of the Solar System."

The event is a solar occultation -- when the sun passes directly behind the planet as Cassini looks on. And this is not just any solar occultation; it's a very long one.

The imaging team will take this opportunity to stitch together a mosaic of the entire ring system.

The Cassini spacecraft will be right where scientists studying the rings want it: far enough from Saturn to be able to image it all and, more importantly, with the Sun blocked by the planet for 12 hours, long enough to properly map the elusive microscopic particles moving within the extended ring system.

"We are all sort of on pins and needles waiting for the results," says Brad Wallis, Cassini Rings Discipline Scientist. "When you get these kinds of high phase angles, very small particles almost focus the light right at the observer. So these faint rings that are so hard to see are going to be considerably brighter and show us details that are just not possible to see in other viewing conditions. All the space between Enceladus and the G ring is probably going to be pretty well lit up. It's really a unique event."

Source: NASA


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