May 5, 2009

The Great Crossing

This movie sequence captures Saturn's rings during a ring plane crossing from the Cassini spacecraft's point of view. The movie begins with a view of the sunlit side of the rings. As the spacecraft speeds from south to north, the rings appear to tilt downward and collapse to a thin plane, and then open again to reveal the un-illuminated side of the ring plane, where sunlight filters through only dimly. The movie consists of 34 images taken over the course of 12 hours as Cassini pierced the ring plane. Six moons careen through the field of view during the sequence. The first large one is Enceladus, whose slanted motion from the upper left to center right nicely illustrates the inclination of its orbit with respect to the rings. The second large one, seen in the second half of the movie, is Mimas, going from right to left.

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