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Saturn's Rings Look Stunning In This New NASA Photo

First Posted: Dec 05, 2016 03:12 AM EST
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Saturn and its rings look stunning in a new photo released by NASA.

Saturn's rings look exquisitely gigantic compared to the planet's moon, Mimas, in a new photo taken from the Cassini mission, Space.com reported. This image (as seen above) was captured on July 21 using the spacecraft's wide-angle camera and was released by the U.S. space agency on Nov. 28.

The Cassini mission is NASA's ongoing collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency since 1997. The spacecraft was able to reach Saturn by 2004 and got as close as 600,000 miles (910,000 kilometers) from the planet by the time this photo was taken.

Various discoveries were already sent back to Earth after almost 20 years of collecting data from the sixth planet from the Sun. This sunlit image, with a 31-degree phase (Sun-Saturn-spacecraft angle), is among Cassini's latest outputs, displaying a more detailed view of Saturn's thin, icy layered rings.

Moreover, the scale of this image is 34 miles (54 kilometers) per pixel.

Although the rings appear gigantic as compared to Mimas in this photo, experts believe that these disks only weigh a fraction of the moon's mass -- considering its 246-mile (396-kilometer) width. Cassini was situated on a 6-degree angle just above the rings at the time the image was captured, which explains the moon's minuscule appearance.

"Cassini is expected to determine the mass of Saturn's rings to within just a few hundredths of Mimas' mass as the mission winds down by tracking radio signals from the spacecraft as it flies close to the rings," according to NASA's statement.

The team is scheduled to capture new images of Saturn's rings by April 2017, when it gets as close as just over 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the planet.

The Cassini mission, which is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is set to land on the planet in September 2017.

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

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