Cassini pierced Saturn's ring plane on Dec. 14, 2004, and swiped this sidelong glance at the planet and its magnificent rings. Saturn's tilt relative to the Sun throws dramatic shadows of the rings onto the planet's northern hemisphere. Details in Saturn's swirling atmosphere are also visible here.
This view looks down onto the dark side of the rings. The rings are lit from below, and both dense and empty regions appear dark, while regions of intermediate particle density are bright.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide angle camera at a distance of approximately 654,000 kilometers (406,000 miles) from Saturn through a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 728 nanometers. The image scale is 35 kilometers (22 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.