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Astronomie - Im Focus von Cassini: A bright spot glows on one of Saturns rings

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A bright spot glows on one of Saturn's rings in a newly released photo taken by a spacecraft exploring the planet and its many moons. 

The glowing patch appears to emanate from what's known as Saturn's "B ring," but looks can be deceiving.

The bright spot is actually produced by an effect known as an "opposition surge" which makes that part of the rings looks like it's glowing from the Cassini spacecraft's perspective, according to NASA.

"An opposition surge occurs when the sun is directly behind the observer looking toward the rings," NASA said in a statement. "The particular geometry of this observation makes the point in the rings appear much, much brighter than would otherwise be expected."

A wide view of the opposition surge bright spot.
Caption

 

A wide view of the opposition surge bright spot.

IMAGE: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

The photo was taken on June 26 when Cassini was about 940,000 miles from Saturn.

And this wasn't the first time Cassini caught sight of a bright spot produced by an opposition surge. 

The spacecraft also snapped beautiful photos of the effect in 2006, almost exactly 10 years ago.

 
A bright spot on the B ring seen by Cassini in 2006.
Caption

A bright spot on the B ring seen by Cassini in 2006.

IMAGE: NASA/JPL/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

 
A bright spot on the A ring seen by Cassini in 2006.
Caption

A bright spot on the A ring seen by Cassini in 2006.

IMAGE: NASA/JPL/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

Cassini is expected to end its mission at Saturn next year, when it makes its expected plunge into the planet's atmosphere, burning up in the process. 

Until then, the spacecraft will continue sending back amazing, moody black and white photos of Saturn with its moons. 

In September, Cassini will observe the small moon Dione, looking for signs of a possible atmosphere, and later that month the probe will fly by Titan, Saturn's largest moon, again.

Quelle: Mashable, NASA

 

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