Astronomy Picture of the Day

Saturn at Night

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Saturn at Night

This is what Saturn looks like at night.

In contrast to the
human-made lights that cause the
nighttime side of Earth to glow faintly,
Saturn's faint nighttime glow is primarily caused by sunlight reflecting off of its own
majestic rings.

The above image
of Saturn at night was captured in July by the
Cassini spacecraft now orbiting

The above image
was taken when the Sun was far in front of the spacecraft.

From this vantage point, the northern hemisphere of nighttime Saturn, visible on the left, appears eerily dark.

Sunlit rings are visible ahead, but are abruptly cut off by
Saturn's shadow.

In Saturn's southern hemisphere, visible on the right, the dim reflected glow from the sunlit rings is most apparent.

Imprinted on this diffuse glow, though, are thin black stripes not discernable to any
Earth telescope -- the silhouetted
C ring of Saturn.

Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 and its
is scheduled to continue until 2008.

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