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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 17:28 GMT
Saturn looms large for spacecraft
Saturn, Nasa/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn: Still some way off, but getting closer all the time
Saturn is getting ever bigger in the viewfinder of Cassini-Huygens' cameras.

The US-European spacecraft is not due at the giant ringed planet until July but has just sent back another stunning image, taken from a distance of 69m km.

The smallest features visible in the new picture - a composite of a series of exposures taken through different filters - are about 540 km across.

The main probe Cassini will investigate Saturn for four years, with the Huygens despatched to the large moon Titan.

"We very much want everyone to enjoy Cassini's tour of this magnificent planetary system," said Dr Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging science team at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

"And I can say right now the views out the window will be stunning."

The images sent back from Cassini-Huygens will now come thick and fast, with the first pictures of Titan arriving at the beginning of April.

Through Cassini, about 260 scientists from 17 countries hope to gain a better understanding of Saturn, its famous rings, its magnetosphere, Titan, and its other icy moons.

"Cassini is probably the most ambitious exploration mission ever launched and is the fruit of an active international collaboration," said Dr Andre Brahic, imaging team member and professor at Université Paris 7-Denis Diderot, France.

"It should be the prelude of our future, the exploration of our surroundings by humanity."

The BBC's Richard Black
"It will be the first time that a craft has landed on a moon other than our own"

Moon probe set for white-knuckle descent
14 Feb 04  |  Science/Nature
Scientists admire Saturn image
06 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature

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