Cassini entered Saturn's orbit on July 1st, 2004. And ever since, this NASA-ESA-ASI collaboration has delivered stunning images of the crown jewel of our solar system. The following 50 images were chosen from thousands of similarly great photographs from a full decade of exploring the sixth planet and its iconic ring system and moons.
Left: The Cassini spacecraft in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, at the Kennedy Space Center. Right: the Titan IVB/Centaur carrying the Cassini spacecraft awaiting for launch at Launch Complex 40.
The seven-year journey to Saturn began with the liftoff of a Titan IVB/Centaur on October 15, 1997.
Dark, cyclonic ovals cruise along flowing lanes of atmosphere of Saturn’s southern hemisphere. This GIF is comprised of 45 frames captured between February 6 to March 30, 2004 as Cassini coasted toward Saturn.
An artist's rendering of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver.
July 1, 2004: This is one of the first raw, narrow angle camera images of Saturn's rings taken after the successful completion of the orbit insertion burn and was cruising over the rings.
July 1, 2004: These two images of Saturn's rings were taken after the orbit insertion burn, when the spacecraft had crossed the ring plane and was looking upwards at the lit face of the rings.
July 1, 2004: The Encke gap (325 kilometers, or 202 miles, wide) in Saturn's A ring.
July 3, 2004: This is Titan, Saturn's largest and the Solar System's second largest moon, encircled in purple stratospheric haze. This image shows a thin, detached haze layer that appears to float above the main atmospheric haze. This colorized image was taken one day after Cassini’s first flyby of the moon on July 2, 2004.
July 16, 2004: view of Saturn’s rings, draped by the shadow of Saturn. Three of Saturn’s moons can be seen here.
Nov 29, 2004: Mimas, a moon of Saturn, is seen against the cool, blue-streaked backdrop of Saturn’s northern hemisphere.
Jan 7, 2005: A near-true color view of the surface of Iapetus, the third-largest moon of Saturn.
Jan 14, 2005: The surface of Titan. This series of images shows a flattened (Mercator) projection of the view from the descent imager/spectral radiometer on the European Space Agency's Huygens probe at four different altitudes. The Huygens probe was delivered to Saturn's moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft.
Jan 14, 2005: Pebbles on Titan's Surface. The image was taken after the European Space Agency's Huygens probe soft-landed on Titan's surface. Objects near the center of the picture are roughly the size of a man's foot.
Jan 18, 2005: Mimas drifts along in its orbit against the azure backdrop of Saturn's northern latitudes in this true color view. The long, dark lines on the atmosphere are shadows cast by the planet's rings.
Apr 22, 2005: Three views of Titan in different wavelengths of light.
May 3, 2005: A simulated image, constructed from the measured optical depth profiles, based on Cassini's first radio occultation observation of Saturn's rings.
Jun 7, 2005: Saturn's second-largest moon, Rhea.
Jul 19, 2005: Tethys glides past in its orbit.
Sept 26, 2005: false-color view of Saturn's moon Hyperion.
Oct 17, 2005: pale, icy Dione, a moon of Saturn discovered by Giovanni Domenico Cassini in 1684.
Dec 22, 2005: Dione floats in front of giant Saturn.
Jun 30, 2006: Titan glows with a 360-degree sunset as light scatters through its very extended atmosphere.
Nov 7, 2006: Saturn’s B and C rings shine in a diffuse, scattered light as Cassini looks on the planet’s night side.
Nov. 10, 2006: This image of the northern polar region of Saturn shows both the aurora and underlying atmosphere, seen at two different wavelengths of infrared light.
Mar 1, 2007: Saturn's atmosphere rages with thunderous and hurricane-like storms.
Sept, 2007: This false-color mosaic shows the entire hemisphere of the two-toned moon Iapetus.
Oct 15, 2007: Natural color mosaic of Saturn from 39 degrees above.
Oct 15, 2007: Mosaic view of Tethys.
Oct 15, 2007: A rainbow effect on Saturn's rings when the Sun is directly behind the spacecraft.
Aug 7, 2008: The cloud-streaked limb of Saturn in front of the planet's B ring. The ring's image is warped near the limb by the diffuse gas in Saturn's upper atmosphere.
Oct 20, 2008: Rhea's cratered, icy landscape with the dark line of Saturn's ringplane and the planet's murky atmosphere as a background.
Nov 1, 2008: This false-color composite image of Saturn's rings and southern hemisphere was made from 65 individual observations by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer.
Dec 5, 2008: The F ring, shortly after the encounter with the shepherd moon Prometheus.
Dec 30, 2008: A natural color view of Saturn and a few of its moons.
Mar 6, 2009: Prometheus, the potato-shaped moon creating a new streamer into Saturn's F ring.
Sep 21, 2009: Equinox witnessed up close by Cassini.
Nov. 2, 2009: Dramatic plumes spray icy particles, water vapor, and organic compounds out from the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus.
Feb 23, 2010: More than 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen in this image of Enceladus.
Feb 23, 2010: A view of Enceladus in a whole-disk mosaic of the geologically active moon's leading, or western, hemisphere.
Mar 29, 2010: In this view captured by Cassini on its closest-ever flyby of Saturn's moon Mimas, the large Herschel Crater dominates Mimas, making the moon look a bit like the Death Star.
Feb. 25, 2011: The huge storm churning through the atmosphere in Saturn's northern hemisphere overtakes itself as it encircles the planet in this true-color view.
July 6, 2011: These false-color images chronicle a day in the life of a huge storm that developed from a small spot that appeared 12 weeks earlier in Saturn's northern mid-latitudes.
Sep 12, 2011: A quintet of Saturn's moons–Janus, Pandora, Enceladus, Rhea and Mimas–come together in Cassini's field of view.
Dec 22, 2011: Saturn's fourth-largest moon, Dione, can be seen through the haze of the planet's largest moon, Titan.
Aug 29, 2012: A natural color view of Titan and Saturn.
Dec 18, 2012: Cassini delivered this glorious view of backlit Saturn while the spacecraft was in Saturn's shadow.
Mar 4, 2013: Venus appears just off the edge of the planet, in the upper part of the image. A bright spot near the E ring is a distant star.
April 29, 2013: A false-color image highlights the storms at Saturn's north pole.
April 29, 2013: Another false-color image of the spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm.
July 19, 2013: The definitive composite image of Saturn, with seven of its moons, its inner rings, and, in the background, our home planet, Earth.