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Janus Poses Above Saturn

This incredible photograph shows Saturn’s potato-shaped Janus, posing above the planet’s cloudy atmosphere. Janus is only 181 kilometers (113 miles) across, and it shows the scars of many impacts with other objects in the Solar System. Like Saturn’s other smaller moons, Janus could be covered with a layer of fine, dust-sized icy material. Cassini took this photo on September 25, 2006 when it was only 145,000 kilometers (90,000 miles) from Janus.

The Cassini spacecraft provides this dramatic portrait of Janus against the cloud-streaked backdrop of Saturn.

Like many small bodies in the solar system, Janus (181 kilometers, or 113 miles across) is potato-shaped with many craters, and the moon has a surface that looks as though it has been smoothed by some process. Like Pandora (see Pandora’s Color Close-up) and Telesto (see A Closer Look at Telesto), Janus may be covered with a mantle of fine dust-sized, icy material.

The image was taken using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 930 nanometers. The view was acquired with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 25, 2006 at a distance of approximately 145,000 kilometers (90,000 miles) from Janus and at a Sun-Janus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 62 degrees. North on Saturn is up. Image scale is 871 meters (2,858 feet) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. 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 and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Original Source: NASA/JPL/SSI News Release

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Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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