Cassini's Mimas, from 70,000 km (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Cassini Survives Close Encounter of the Death Star Kind!

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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On February 13, 2010, Cassini flew by Saturn’s moon Mimas, coming as close as 9,500 km.

It passed directly over Herschel, a giant crater whose creation almost shattered the moon … and which, in its appearance in some earlier images, earned Mimas the nickname “Death Star”, after the iconic Star Wars prop.

The Cassini team has just released some “Raw Previews” of Cassini’s close encounter; time to feast your eyes.

35,000 km-distant Herschel, from Cassini (unprocessed image; credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)


The Cassini Equinox Mission, of which the Mimas flyby is but a small part, is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Herschel, from 16,000 km above (unprocessed image; credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)


Source: CICLOPS (Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations)

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DrFlimmer
Member
DrFlimmer
February 15, 2010 1:19 PM

Time for the classic:

THAT’S NO MOON!

And btw: This really looks like a model wink Someone hang that up before a blurred wall.
(In fact, that’s not so wrong after all. It just “hangs” in front of a blurred Saturn!)

Aqua4U
Member
February 15, 2010 7:15 PM

All of Saturn’s 31 known satellites have a density approximately < 2 gm/cm3. This indicates they are composed of 30 to 40% rock and 60 to 70% water ice.

What I'd like to know… is HOW did Saturn do that? Captured cometary bodies? Ongoing cold flow chemosynthesis?

damian
Member
February 16, 2010 12:43 AM

Fascinating.

A little bit of (image processing) on these reveals layered sediments on the crater walls. Very distinct differences in Albedo.

The close ups hint at far more complex surface patterning then I would have imagined.

If only we had an Human Outpost in the Saturn System, and a flotilla of remote sensing satellites. smile Generations worth of exploration await.

Damian

Dark Gnat
Member
Dark Gnat
February 16, 2010 5:44 AM

Fear will keep them in line….

…fear of this battle station.

Great images!

BlueAmberol
Member
BlueAmberol
February 16, 2010 8:52 AM

Go find “Buck Rogers in the Moons of Saturn”.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 16, 2010 10:53 AM
By the way, comets have even lower densities. Coincidentally, I spied this arxiv news: “Small Asteroids Are Held Together by Van Der Waals Forces Small spinning asteroids are piles of rubble and dust that ought to fly apart but don’t. Now astronomers have worked out why not […] Spin rate statistics suggest that Ikotawa and asteroids like it are piles of rubble held together by gravity on scales of 150 metres and larger. But smaller boulders should fly off into space at this rate of spin. But that creates a puzzle. Images from Hayabusa show that on smaller scales, Ikotawa is little more than a collection of boulders and dust. But if gravity cannot beat the centripetal forces… Read more »
AndyInv
Member
AndyInv
February 16, 2010 2:58 PM

Jean. ‘ so whatever lead to Saturn’s moons ‘ – it’s led not lead.

William928
Member
William928
February 16, 2010 4:21 PM

@Tobjorn Larsson:

It’s EU theory holding these asteroids together, don’t you know?

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