Saturn’s tiny moon Atlas shines with the rings
While most eyes on Earth have been focused on the Red Planet and the eventful landing of the Curiosity Rover, other missions throughout the Solar System are delivering stunning vistas as well, such as this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft of tiny moon Atlas as it shines just above Saturn’s rings.
Can you find it?
Atlas, just 30 kilometers (or 19 miles) across, sits just above the ring plane in this image taken by Cassini’s narrow-angle camera on April 16, 2012 at a distance of 1.4 million kilometers (870,000 miles). At this distance, Atlas appears as a small white dot. Atlas orbits Saturn between the main rings and the thin F ring.
Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 and is now in its second extended mission called Cassini Solstice Mission. For the past two years, Cassini cruised in an equatorial orbit flying close over several moons including Titan and studying the planet’s iconic rings. Over the next three years, Cassini will hurtle high above the poles, sending the probe through the ring plane many times.
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John Williams is a science writer and owner of TerraZoom, a Colorado-based web development shop specializing in web mapping and online image zooms. He also writes the award-winning blog, StarryCritters, an interactive site devoted to looking at images from NASA’s Great Observatories and other sources in a different way. A former contributing editor for Final Frontier, his work has appeared in the Planetary Society Blog, Air & Space Smithsonian, Astronomy, Earth, MX Developer’s Journal, The Kansas City Star and many other newspapers and magazines.