NASA's Cassini spacecraft is beginning to return color images of Jupiter as it nears the giant planet for a gravitational assist toward its ultimate destination, Saturn. The first color image of Jupiter from Cassini was taken from a distance of about 81 million kilometers (50 million miles) by Cassini's camera. It shows the colored latitudinal bands encircling the planet in the upper atmosphere. Europa, one of Jupiter's large moons, is seen at right, casting a shadow onto the planet.
The image is available from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pictures/jupiter , and from the web site of the Cassini Imaging Science team at the University of Arizona, Tucson, at http://ciclops.lpl.arizona.edu/ .
Cassini will pass most closely to Jupiter, at about 10 million kilometers (6 million miles) away, on December 30. Images taken as it approaches and flies past will be used for studies of atmospheric dynamics, dark rings and other features of Jupiter. Some of the studies will be in conjunction with observations by NASA's Galileo spacecraft, which has been orbiting and studying Jupiter since late 1995.
Additional information about Cassini is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cassini .
Cassini is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the Cassini and Galileo missions for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
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