Space shot: Venus seen through rings of Saturn

By Paul Harper

The vast distance between the planets means Venus appears as only a white speck near the centre of the image. Photo / NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space
The vast distance between the planets means Venus appears as only a white speck near the centre of the image. Photo / NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured an image of Venus shot through the rings of Saturn.

The image was taken in November while Cassini was in the shadow of Saturn, allowing Cassini to look in the direction of the sun and Venus, and take a backlit image of Saturn and its rings in a particular viewing geometry called "high solar phase".

This observing position reveals details about the rings and Saturn's atmosphere that cannot be seen in lower solar phase.

The vast distance between the planets means Venus appears as only a white speck near the centre of the image.

Another, taken in January, captures Venus just beyond the limb of Saturn and close to Saturn's G ring, a thin ring just beyond the main Saturnian rings. The diffuse E ring, which is outside the G ring and created by the spray of the moon Enceladus, is also visible.

Venus is, along with Mercury, Earth and Mars, one of the rocky "terrestrial" planets in the solar system that orbit relatively close to the sun.

Though Venus has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that reaches nearly 500 degrees Celsius and a surface pressure 100 times that of Earth's, it is considered a twin to our planet because of their similar sizes, masses, rocky compositions and close orbits. It is covered in thick sulfuric acid clouds, making it very bright.

-nzherald.co.nz

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