Deep Space Probe Captures Venus Through Saturn Rings

First Posted: Mar 04, 2013 02:10 PM EST

An amazing picture released by NASA today shows a unique perspective of Venus in the inner solar system, seen from the far-away outer region of the system where Saturn orbits the sun. The deep space probe Cassini, exploring Saturn and its moons, shot this image through the rings of the gas giant, across interplanetary space, to capture the bright, cloudy terrestrial planet Venus. The vast distance from Saturn means that Venus only shows up as a white dot, just above and to the right of the image center.

Venus is one of the rocky 'terrestrial' planets in the solar system that orbit relatively close to the sun, along with Mercury, Earth, and Mars. Terrestrial thus doesn't mean exactly like Earth, just like the now often mentioned category of exoplanets, but describes a similar size, mass and rocky composition. In this regard Venus is considered a twin to our planet even though it has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that reaches nearly 500 degrees Celsius and a surface pressure 100 times that of Earth. Venus is covered in thick sulfuric acid clouds, making it very bright.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 17 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Nov. 10, 2012 and now released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which manages the Cassini-Huygens mission, a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

The bright arc is the limb of Saturn. A portion of the rings is seen in silhouette against the face of Saturn, which itself is faintly illuminated by sunlight scattered off the rings. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 802,000 kilometers from Saturn and at a sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 178 degrees. Image scale is 44 kilometers per pixel.

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