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Picture of the Day - October 4, 2009

"Saturn at equinox"

Photo of the magnificent planet Saturn during its equinox.
Photo courtesy of NASA.                            (Click on the photo for a larger view)

For hundreds of years we earthlings were stuck with pretty much the same view of the magnificent planet Saturn every time we turned our telescopes skyward. Of course the view got better as the quality and power of our telescopes improved, but it was always the same view nonetheless. But the advent of robotic explorers has changed that.

The spectacular image featured above was captured last month by the amazing spacecraft Cassini which is currently in orbit around Saturn. When this photo was taken the gas giant was at equinox, and during that time her famous rings were edge-on to the earth which makes them pretty much disappear from our earthly vantage point.

But thanks to Cassini, for the first time since the Creation we were able to have a camera pointed at Saturn from the side during the planet's equinox (which only occurs once every 15 earth years), and the result is the spectacular photograph you see here. Since the narrow band of rings were edge-on to the sun, they received very little sunlight which made them extremely dim even from this unique vantage point.

Even though we earthlings are still stuck extremely close to home in celestial terms, our robotic surrogates are traveling far and wide throughout our solar system (and eventually beyond), sending us thousands of breathtaking images and enough data to keep our astronomers and scientists busy for decades to come. Our knowledge of the universe is still quite limited, but with ever-greater technological breakthroughs and the grace of our wonderful Creator we are learning more each month than we did in all the first 350 years following the invention of the telescope combined.

Visitor Comments...
    Name: Ron Goins
    Town: Sherman Oaks, CA

    Except for our own earth, Saturn is by far the most photogenic of the planets in our solar system. Cassini, Hubble and possibly even manned spacecraft at some point will bring us many more "views" of this beauty.
    Name: Jackie Walton
    Town: Onawa, IA

    This site sure features some amazing images, and this is certainly one of the best.
    Name: Ed Morrison
    Town: Dunwoody, GA

    Gorgeous image of a gorgeous planet.
    Name: Mimi Hesse
    Town: Alvarado, TX

    What a magnificent image. Truly awe inspiring.
    Name: Robert Schwarztrauber
    Town: Buffalo, NY

    Rick, thanks for sharing this great photo of Saturn. Your website is about showing us the worlds beyond our door through photography - and Saturn is certainly a magnificently photogenic part of our world. We are very fortunate to have NASA engineers and technicians, along with the financial resources that allow us to explore the universe and capture fine images such as this.

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