Cassini snaps photo of Uranus. The ‘ice giant’ is the tiny little dot in the upper left of the image. Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has taken its first-ever picture of the pale blue ice-giant planet Uranus.

It’s a tiny dot in the upper left of the photo.

The robotic spacecraft briefly turned its attention away from the rings of Saturn on April 11 to observe the distant planet, which is the seventh planet from the sun. Uranus is 1.6 to 1.98 billion miles away from earth, depending on the two planets position in the solar system.

Uranus, and its further neighbor Neptune, are sometimes referred to as “ice giants” because they are made up largely of frozen water, ammonia and methane.

When the picture was taken last month Uranus was nearly on the opposite side of the sun as seen from Saturn and Cassini.

NASA says Cassini’s view of Uranus also serves a practical purpose. Scientists working on several of Cassini’s science investigations expect that they will be able to use images and spectra from these observations to help calibrate their own instruments.

Cassini is on a mission to study Saturn, a “gas giant” planet, its rings and some of its many moons. It launched from earth on October 15, 1997 and entered Saturn’s orbit on July 1, 2004.

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