CASSINI IMAGES URANUS THROUGH THE RINGS OF SATURN
Image Credit & Copyright: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Ian Regan / Val Klavans. CLICK image for larger view and look below for information and links.
First off let me say that any time you can get more than one planet in an image it’s a beautiful thing and Cassini does it yet again with this gem. Cassini may not be to the standard that Hubble has set for us through the years (and that’s debatable) but it’s images keep me coming back over and over again to see what it’s been up to because there’s always something amazing to see…..now let’s check this image out.
On April 11, 2014 while Cassini was so close but so far away from Saturn at a distance of 614,300 mi. (988,600 km) it imaged Uranus from over the bright “F” ring of Saturn. Each pixel in this image represents roughly 16,000 mi. (25,700 km) so this scale and the distances are just massive. Then factor in that Uranus as seen here is 28.6 AU from Cassini and remembering that 1 AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun, what you come up with instant “mind blown” material. Sometimes even in our own backyard it’s hard to get a feel for just how large and overwhelming the distances can be.
You say 28.6 AU doesn’t sound right? Yes of course that distance is simply massive and you would be partially correct to say that Uranus isn’t 28.6 AU from Saturn. What you have to do here is break away from the classroom model of the solar system where the planets are all in a line and all on the same side of the Sun. In this image, Uranus is all the way over on the other side of the solar system on the opposite side of the Sun and that is where you create this monumental gap between the two planets.
Uranus in this image had been brightened by a factor of 4.5 to make it easier to see. The “A” ring (bottom right) has been brightened by a factor of two.
Here’s a short write up I did on how to build your own scale solar system and there’s some pretty brain twisting thought exercises in there as well so check it out if you wish: https://danspace77.com/build-a-solar-system/
Planetary Society page for this image: http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/space-images/uranus/cassini-spies-uranus.html
NASA page for this image (original non-annotated version): http://www.nasa.gov/jpl/cassini/pia17178/
Cassini mission page for this image (original non-annotated version): http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/newsreleases/newsrelease20140501/
JPL Space Images page for this image (original non-annotated version): http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17178
Cassini Imaging Team: http://www.ciclops.org/
Terrific blog just about the planet Saturn: http://saturnology.blogspot.com/