Minuscule Moon Shadow

Pan's shadow is cast over Saturn's A ring
May 13, 2009
PIA NumberPIA11491
  • english

The short and slender shadow of Pan is cast over Saturn's A ring as the moon orbits within the Encke Gap.

As Saturn approaches its August 2009 equinox, the planet's moons are casting shadows onto the rings. To learn more about this special time and to see a movie of a moon's shadow moving across the rings, see Moon Shadow in Motion.

The shadow of the small moon Pan (28 kilometers, or 17 miles across) is much smaller than those cast by larger moons, such as Tethys (see Trumpeting the Equinox).

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 16 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 10, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1 million kilometers (621,000 miles) from Pan and at a Sun-Pan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 44 degrees. 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 .

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute