How Could This Photo Of Saturn Be Real?

Take a look at this photo of Saturn's rings, taken by Cassini's wide-angle camera last month, 435,000km behind Saturn. When I first saw it, I thought it couldn't be real, but the explanation is easy.

Cassini was in a position similar to the one in which it took this photo, looking to Saturn from below:

However, the Sun was in a different place, which explains the hard black shadow over the part of the rings closer to the spacecraft:

The reason why we can see the rings over the planet itself, as Phil Plait explains in Bad Astronomy, is because the rings on the right reflect light onto the back of the planet. What we are looking at on the left side is the silhouette of the rings against the dimly lighted back of Saturn.

How exquisite, how delicate this scene is... and yet, how immense - each of the pixels is 22km wide in real life - and overwhelming. Once again, the universe leaves me in awe. [Ciclops via Bad Astronomy]

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