A ringside seat to see Saturn and her moons

 

These stunning images of Saturn and its moons were taken by the Cassini space probe which, for the first time in two years, has been able to get a good view of the planet's famous rings owing to a recent change in the spacecraft's angle of orbit. It took seven years for Cassini to travel the two billion miles to Saturn.

Since arriving in 2004, the probe has been surveying the gas giant from the advantage of its elaborate elliptical orbits. The main image on the left was taken from a distance of about 621,000 miles from Saturn and shows how the rings cast distinctive shadows on the planet's surface.

The other black-and-white photographs, taken from about 1.1 million miles away, show the moons Titan and Tethys and Saturn's elaborate ring system, which is created by the reflected light of particles of dust and debris caught up in orbit around the equator.

Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 and six months later it separated from a second probe, called Huygens, which landed successfully on Titan after a breathtaking 12-hour descent. The first images from Titan showed a world that may have looked remarkably similar to the early Earth before life evolved.

Scientists believe Titan has many similar features to Earth, such as lakes, rivers, channels, dunes, rain, snow, clouds, mountains and possibly volcanoes.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint enterprise between the US space agency Nasa, the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency. It is named after two famous European astronomers, Giovanni Domenico Cassini and Christiaan Huygens.

The spacecraft, launched in 1997, is currently in an extended mission expected to last until 2017.

"It has been nearly two years since Nasa's Cassini spacecraft has had views like these of Saturn's glorious rings," said a spokesman for Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "These views are possible again because Cassini has changed the angle at which it orbits Saturn and regularly passes above and below Saturn's equatorial plane."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

£24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

Service Delivery Manager (Product Manager, Test and Deployment)

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week