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NASA Releases Stunning Portrait of Saturn

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Oct 19, 2013 12:09 PM EDT
Saturn
NASA has released a stunning new portrait of Saturn and its rings. The image was assembled by amateur image processor Gordan Ugarkovic using pictures taken by the space agency's Cassini spacecraft Oct. 10. (Photo : NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic)

NASA has released a stunning new portrait of Saturn and its rings. The image was assembled by amateur image processor Gordan Ugarkovic using pictures taken by the space agency's Cassini spacecraft Oct. 10.

The mosaic includes 12 image footprints with red, blue and green filters from Cassini's imaging subsystem. According to NASA, Ugarkovic used full color sets for 11 of the footprints and red and blue images for the remaining one.

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The image, however, has not been geometrically corrected for shifts in the spacecraft perspective and still contains some camera artifacts.

Cassini entered orbit around Saturn in 2004, at which point it began the very first up-close study of the sixth planet from the Sun. The probe has since finished its primary four-year mission, as well as a two-year extension called the Cassini Equinox Mission. Since then, the spacecraft has entered a second extended mission -- the Cassini Solstice Mission.

The probe's observations of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, have offered scientists a chance to look at what Earth may have resembled prior to the arrival of life. By plunging through the moon's dense atmosphere, Cassini has gathered enough data to fuel hundreds of scientific articles. At this point, researchers believe Titan is home to many of the same features seen on Earth, including lakes, rivers, channels, dunes, rain, snow, clouds mountains and possible volcanoes.

"We're looking at a string of remarkable discoveries -- about Saturn's magnificent rings, its amazing moons, its dynamic magnetosphere and about Titan's surface and atmosphere," Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, said in a statement. "Some of the mission highlights so far include discovering that Titan has Earth-like processes and that the small moon Enceladus has a hot-spot at its southern pole, jets on the surface that spew out ice crystals and evidence of liquid water beneath its surface."

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