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Saturn's Bend in the Rings.

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Saturn's swirling clouds.
Saturn's swirling clouds. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI.

In this image of Saturn, taken by Cassini, it's possible to see how Saturn's atmosphere distorts the rings right next to the planet. This happens because Saturn's atmosphere refracts the light coming from the rings, similar to how object in the water look distorted and out of position.

Believe it or not, this extreme close-up of Saturn's swirling clouds was acquired from more than one million kilometers (621,370 miles) from the gas giant planet. The rings' image is severely bent by atmospheric refraction as they pass behind the planet.

The dark region in the rings is the 4,800-kilometer-wide (2,980 mile) Cassini Division.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 25, 2005, at a distance of approximately 1 million kilometers (600,000 miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 6 kilometers (4 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 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 operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.

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