NASA just released a brand new picture of Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft as it sped through the planet’s shadow. The photo combines 60 images taken in the violet, visible and infrared (heat) portions of the spectrum. The last time the probe was at a sufficient distance from the planet and had the time to piece together a similar view was September 2006.
What a spectacle! Views like this are impossible from Earth since Saturn, located far beyond Mars and Jupiter, never passes between the sun and Earth. These photos were obtained on Oct. 21, 2012 from a distance of 500,000 miles with the sun behind Saturn.
I don’t know why the mission team waited so long! We love this stuff. Lit from behind as it were, Saturn reveals details of its rings and atmosphere not discernible in more typical, front-lit images. Tiny ice particles in the rings flare into light from this perspective much like seeing someone’s breath against the sun on a cold day. Be sure to click on each picture to view the high resolution versions and revel in the glory.