NASA Unveils Stunning, Natural-Color Saturn Panorama

APTOPIX Saturn Wide View

NASA released the first natural-color image of Saturn from space showing the planet, its moons and rings, as well as the planets Earth, Venus and Mars.

The new panoramic image of the Saturn system, taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, shows the view, as human eyes would see it. It was unveiled at the Newseum in Washington Tuesday, according to a news release from NASA.

The spacecraft's imaging team processed 141 wide-angle images to create the single panorama mosaic, which sweeps across 404,880 miles of Saturn and its inner ring system.

"In this one magnificent view, Cassini has delivered to us a universe of marvels," Carolyn Porco, Cassini's imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., said in the release. "And it did so on a day people all over the world, in unison, smiled in celebration at the sheer joy of being alive on a pale blue dot."

Porco is referencing Cassini's "Wave at Saturn" campaign, when on July 19, people knew in advance that a spacecraft was taking their picture from planetary distances. The space agency encouraged amateur astronomers from across the world to celebrate by finding Saturn in their part of the sky, waving at the ringed planet and sharing their pictures on the Internet.

The spacecraft doesn't attempt to take many pictures of Earth because the sun is so close that an unobstructed view would damage the spacecraft's sensitive detectors.

But on July 19, a good opportunity came when Cassini was able to capture a picture of Earth and its moon with the multi-image, backlit panorama of the Saturn system.

NASA began exploring Saturn's system in 1997 and will continue the mission of collecting many more images of the ringed planet until 2017.  

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