Viewed from Saturn, nearest stellar neighbors offer compelling target

Two members of the Alpha Centauri triple star system, A and B, are visible just over Saturn’s cloud tops as viewed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The third member of the trinary star, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, is not visible. While Saturn might seem a distant viewing location, Alpha Centauri is 30,000 times farther away. This image was captured as part of a stellar occultation experiment in which Cassini measured how the stars dimmed as they passed behind Saturn’s atmosphere. Cassini’s narrow-angle camera captured this stunning view from a distance of 534,000 kilometres (332,000 miles) on 17 May, 2008.

A view across Saturn’s cloud tops at Earth’s nearest stellar neighbors, the Alpha Centauri trinary star system. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute