Morning star of Saturn: Cassini views Venus

Dawn on Saturn is greeted across the vastness of interplanetary space by the morning star, Venus, in this image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team Leader and director of CICLOPS, writes:

Every so often, our cameras on Cassini digitally record, either intentionally or incidentally, other celestial bodies besides those found around Saturn. The Cassini Imaging Team is releasing a pair of images that did just that. Venus, a lovely shining beacon of light and Earth's `twin' planet, was recently sighted amidst the glories of Saturn and its rings.

Along with Mercury, Earth, and Mars, Venus is one of the rocky "terrestrial" planets in the solar system that orbit relatively close to the sun. It has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that reaches nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius), a surface pressure 100 times that of Earth's, and is covered in thick, white sulfuric acid clouds, making it very bright. Despite a thoroughly hellish environment that would melt lead, Venus is considered a twin of our planet because of their similar sizes, masses, rocky compositions and close orbits.

Think about Venus the next time you find yourself reveling in the thriving flora, balmy breezes, and temperate climate of a lovely day on Earth, and remember: you could be somewhere else!

View the images here.


  1. I love photograhs of ‘everyday’ objects where they look almost unrecognizable.  Shapes, curves, lighting…

  2. I’ve tried to read the full description as carefully as possible, but I still feel certain I’m missing something, or maybe just inspiring yet another Great Moment In Pedantry.

    I see two bright objects: one closer to the top of the picture, the other lower down and slightly farther from the bright ring. The imaging team’s description seems to clarify that Venus is the upper bright object. As lovely and fascinating as Venus is I’m curious to know what the other object–I assume it’s a star–is, since it’s of roughly equal size and brightness.

    1. Since it’s in the ‘rings’ part of the shot, there’s a pretty good chance the lower bright spot is one of Saturn’s moons.

    2. From the first paragraph of the full description: “Lower down, Saturn’s E ring makes an appearance, looking blue thanks to the scattering properties of the dust that comprises the ring. A bright spot near the E ring is a distant star.”

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