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NAS Announces 'Spectacular Saturn: Images From The Cassini-Huygens Mission'

Press Release From: National Academy of Sciences
Posted: Monday, July 27, 2009

WASHINGTON - "Spectacular Saturn: Images From the Cassini-Huygens Mission," an exhibition of more than 60 views of Saturn and its moons, is on display through Dec. 8 at the National Academies' Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., N.W. Ranging from sober grayscale to vibrant colors, the photos are viewable on weekdays by appointment only; call 202-334-2415 to make a viewing appointment.

The Cassini spacecraft has provided an unprecedented look at Saturn and its rings and moons since reaching the planet's orbit in 2004. The images and other data returned by Cassini and its probe Huygens revealed surprising details in Saturn's atmospheric storms, the structure of its rings, the intricate geologic patterns on its moons, and even present-day geologic activity on the moon Enceladus.

The colors in these images are partially real and partially artificial and paint the Saturn system as an artistic collage. Humans perceive light in wavelengths corresponding to the visible spectrum of colors in a rainbow, but there are other wavelengths that the human eye cannot see such as radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays. Saturn and its orbiting moons reflect these different wavelengths of light in ways that yield information about the texture and composition of their surfaces. Cassini's cameras captured many images of the same subject, each in a different wavelength. In order to see and interpret the data as images, scientists assigned every wavelength a "false" color, often rendered as shades of gray or bright reds, greens, and blues. Scientists also used high-contrast colors and image sharpening to highlight fine details.

Cassini continues to record new vistas from Saturn. Thanks to the work of thousands of people at NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency, we have the chance to see this extraordinary planet, its rings, and its moons close up.

The presentation of this exhibition was supported by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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