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.