Planes and Moving Shadows

The Cassini web page posted this nice color image of Saturn from 1.6 million miles away. You can detect the moons Tethys (brighter and “above” the rings) and Mimas (“below”) easily. Mimas’s shadow hits the bluish cloudtops on the planet’s northern hemisphere. Actually, the major Saturnian moons (except Hyperion) orbit along the same plane as the rings. If we were viewing the planet from these moons, we’d need a sharp eye to determine the rings. What we would see more prominently is the ring shadow changing size and location on the planet’s day side.

Below is an image taken in February 2005. Two-and-a-half years and a significant change. You can also see the two moons Dione and Enceladus orbiting in the same plane as the rings. The above color image was taken from a 2% angle above the orbital plane.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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