The Cassini spacecraft – which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 and is now in its final year – captured this image of the planet with its wide-angle camera on February 25, 2017. Cassini was approximately 762,000 miles (1.23 million km) from Saturn when it acquired the image. Saturn is some 10 times farther from the sun than Earth. It takes 30 Earth-years to orbit our sun. At Saturn, the sun’s illumination is roughly 100 times less intense.
Cassini, which is now running out of fuel, is in the midst of its Grand Finale year. It has been making dare-devil plunges between between Saturn’s innermost ring and outermost atmosphere, and it’s just over two months away from plunging into Saturn itself. The craft is still making spectcular discoveries, recently finding that the space between Saturn and its rings is emptier than scientists had suspected.
And so this image, which shows the light of a new day on Saturn, marks part of Cassini’s ending.
Learn more about Cassini and its Grand Finale year at Saturn in the video below:
Bottom line: February 2017 image of Saturn, at dawn, via Cassini.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.