Moons dancing around Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
The Cassini CICLOPS imaging team has released some new movies of several moons orbiting Saturn as if in a cosmic ballet around the ringed planet. In one scene that blends 12 images taken over the span of 19 minutes, Rhea skates in front of Janus, as Mimas and Pandora slide across the screen in the opposite direction.
“As yet another year in Saturn orbit draws to a close, these wondrous movies of an alien place clear across the solar system remind us how fortunate we are to be engaged in this magnificent exploratory expedition,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader.
While the dance appears leisurely on screen, Rhea actually orbits Saturn at a speed of about 8 kilometers per second (18,000 mph). The other moons are hurtling around the planet even faster. Mimas averages about 14 kilometers per second (31,000 mph), and Janus and Pandora travel at about 16 kilometers per second (36,000 mph).