Three crescent moons imaged around Saturn

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

A new image captured by NASA’s Cassini orbiter and released by the US space agency earlier this week shows not just one or two, but three of Saturn’s moons as crescents.

According to the Washington Post, the picture was taken on March 25. While it captures the moons Mimas, Rhea, and Titan “striking the same interstellar pose” (so to speak), the image also emphasizes just how different each of these three moons are from one another.

Experts at the Cassini Imaging Team and the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) explained that the view shown in the image is looking toward the Titan’s anti-Saturn hemisphere, and was captured using the spacecraft’s narrow-angle camera instrument.

The image was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles from Titan. The scale of the image at Titan is 75 miles per pixel, CICLOPS noted. Mimas was 1.9 million miles away with an image scale of 11.4 miles per pixel, and Rhea was 2.2 million miles away with an image scale of 13.1 miles per pixel, officials at the imaging team added.

About the moons

Mimas, at just 246 miles across, is the smallest of the three and is made primarily of ice. It has a rough, cratered surface, and has a large one that making it resemble the Death Star of Star Wars fame, the newspaper said. That crater, known as the Herschel Crater, is 88 miles wide, has walls about three miles high, and is up to six miles deep in spots, according to NASA.

Rhea, the second largest moon of Saturn, has a diameter of 949 miles and is described by the US space agency as “a small, cold, airless body” with temperatures reaching as low as -364 degrees Fahrenheit in the shaded areas. It also has high reflectivity, suggesting it’s largely made out of water ice, and its surface contains subsidence fractures that make canyons.

The third object in the image, Titan, is Saturn’s largest moon with a diameter of roughly 3,200 miles across. It is also one of the most Earth-like worlds found to date, according to NASA, and has a thick atmosphere and organic-rich chemistry reminiscent of a frozen version of our planet. It appears to be fuzzy in the picture due to its dense atmosphere scattering the light.


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