Cassini Over the Rings

Cassini’s closeup pictures from Saturn Orbit Insertion are coming in: here’s the full story from Spaceflight Now. The craft travels too fast for its cameras to get pretty closeups of the individual particles and fragments of rock, dust, and ice that compose the rings, but the closeups are gorgeous nonetheless, showing regular, wavelike variations in ring density and thickness from gravitational interaction with Saturn’s moons.

The Cassini staff, like the staff on their sister mission, the Mars Exploration Rovers, have been absolutely awesome about releasing raw mission images direct to the public as they arrive from the spacecraft. Probably the easiest way to get at the most recent Cassini imagery without struggling with their search form is to go through the Browse Latest Raw Images page. Right now it’s mostly unprocessed ring closeups.

In the media, corny “Lord of the Rings” references continue to fly fast and loose.

(Also on MeFi.)