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Saturn shines in new stunning photos

Dec 20 (): NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has snapped plenty of stunning photos of Saturn on October 17, 2012, during its 174th orbit around Saturn.

The Cassini mission with the project cost of $3.2 billion, under the collaboration of NASA, the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency, was launched in 1997. Cassini spacecraft arrived in Saturn in 2004 and delivered the Huygens lander on the surface of Titan – Saturn’s huge moon, in January 2005.

The spacecraft has been orbiting around the ringed gas planet over eight-plus years. The recent photos sent are the most beautiful and most stunning that the spacecraft has ever sent.

The Cassini spacecraft was positioned within the shadow of Saturn, which is described to be the perfect exact location to gaze at the sun’s direction and to take backlit view of the rings of Saturn and the planet’s dark side. The sunlight lighting the rings of Saturn makes them extremely visible and the shadow of the rings can also be seen on the planet’s surface.

Cassini has taken the ringed gas planet’s hot 60 images, on Oct. 17. Such images can reveal details about Saturn’s rings and atmosphere that are not otherwise visible, scientists said. The researchers said, all the 60 images comprising the new mosaic were taken in visible, violet and near infrared wavelengths, but they were processed to look like a natural colour.

Cassini previously has taken similar images of Saturn in September 2006, researchers said. In those images, Earth could be seen as a pale dot, which was termed “In Saturn’s Shadow.”

Earlier in December, the Cassini mission has also spotted a vast river system on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 400 km from its ‘headwaters’ to a large sea.

Cassini is likely to continue its journey studying about Saturn and its moons for the coming years as its mission has been extended through at least till 2017.

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