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Saturn says 'cheese'

By combining 126 snapshots of Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft last fall, astronomers have assembled the largest and most-detailed global portrait of the ringed planet ever made.

Recorded during a 2-hour interval on Oct. 4, 2004, when Cassini cruised around Saturn at a distance of 6.3 million kilometers, the true-color mosaic highlights several features: storms in Saturn's southern hemisphere, subtle color variations across the rings, the structure of the narrow F ring, and the shadow cast by the planet across its rings, which are made of dust and ice.

The composite image, which NASA and the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., released on Feb. 24, resolves details as small as 38 km across.

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