Cassini imaging science: Instrument characteristics and anticipated scientific investigations at Saturn

Carolyn C. Porco, Robert A. West, Steven Squyres, Alfred McEwen, Peter Thomas, Carl D. Murray, Anthony Delgenio, Andrew P. Ingersoll, Torrence V. Johnson, Gerhard Neukum, Joseph Veverka, Luke Dones, Andre Brahic, Joseph A. Burns, Vance Haemmerle, Benjamin Knowles, Douglas Dawson, Thomas Roatsch, Kevin Beurle, William Owen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

303 Scopus citations


The Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) is the highest-resolution two-dimensional imaging device on the Cassini Orbiter and has been designed for investigations of the bodies and phenomena found within the Saturnian planetary system. It consists of two framing cameras: a narrow angle, reflecting telescope with a 2-m focal length and a square field of view (FOV) 0.35° across, and a wide-angle refractor with a 0.2-m focal length and a FOV 3.5° across. At the heart of each camera is a charged coupled device (CCD) detector consisting of a 1024 square array of pixels, each 12 μ on a side. The data system allows many options for data collection, including choices for on-chip summing, rapid imaging and data compression. Each camera is outfitted with a large number of spectral filters which, taken together, span the electromagnetic spectrum from 200 to 1100 nm. These were chosen to address a multitude of Saturn-system scientific objectives: sounding the three-dimensional cloud structure and meteorology of the Saturn and Titan atmospheres, capturing lightning on both bodies, imaging the surfaces of Saturn's many icy satellites, determining the structure of its enormous ring system, searching for previously undiscovered Saturnian moons (within and exterior to the rings), peering through the hazy Titan atmosphere to its yet-unexplored surface, and in general searching for temporal variability throughout the system on a variety of time scales. The ISS is also the optical navigation instrument for the Cassini mission. We describe here the capabilities and characteristics of the Cassini ISS, determined from both ground calibration data and in-flight data taken during cruise, and the Saturn-system investigations that will be conducted with it. At the time of writing, Cassini is approaching Saturn and the images returned to Earth thus far are both breathtaking and promising.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-497
Number of pages135
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Cassini
  • Imaging
  • Moons
  • Rings
  • Saturn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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