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From the LITD Archives: Eclipsing Mimas

Originally published on May 16, 2009. LITD is almost 3 years old!

A Shadow Crosses the Face of Mimas

A Shadow Crosses the Face of Mimas

This animation, made from a series of 8 raw images taken by Cassini on May 14, shows Saturn’s moon Mimas being eclipsed by another object…..a neighboring moon, perhaps? It’s not mentioned, but it definitely seems to be something of similar size, and round.

Mimas is best characterized by its large-scale Herschel crater in its northern hemisphere. At 88 miles wide, it is a major surface feature of the 246-mile-wide moon (and pretty much makes it look like a rough version of the Death Star.) Herschel is not visible in these particular images.

It will be interesting to see if this eclipse event is clarified by the Cassini mission team in the future.

Raw image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Animation: J. Major.

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Mimas and the Rings

Mimas hovers in front of Saturn’s rings in a color image composed from raw Cassini data taken on January 31, 2011. I used data taken with Cassini’s green, infrared and ultraviolet spectral filters to compose this colorized version.

Known as the “Death Star” moon, 250-mile (400 km) -wide Mimas’ northern hemisphere is dominated by the 80-mile (128 km) -wide Herschel Crater, which gives it an uncanny resemblance to the sci-fi space station. Herschel is not directly visible in the image above but its rim can be seen along Mimas’ western limb, giving the moon a flattened appearance. (From this angle it looks more like the silhouette of South Park’s “Kenny” than the Empire’s battle station!)

A crater on Earth as proportionally as large as Herschel would be 2,500 miles (4,000 km) across.

Bright water ice reflects the sunlight in many of the crater walls on Mimas. Like many of Saturn’s moons Mimas’ surface is composed of a lot of water ice, which is highly reflective and hard as rock at the cold temperatures found that far out in the solar system.

Saturn’s rings are in the background.

Image: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute. Edited by J. Major.

Eclipsing Mimas

 

A Shadow Crosses the Face of Mimas

A Shadow Crosses the Face of Mimas

This animation, made from a series of 8 raw images taken by Cassini on May 14, shows Saturn’s moon Mimas being eclipsed by another object…..a neighboring moon, perhaps? It’s not mentioned, but it definitely seems to be something of similar size, and round.

Mimas is best characterized by its large-scale Herschel crater in its northern hemisphere. At 88 miles wide, it is a major surface feature of the 246-mile-wide moon (and pretty much makes it look like a rough version of the Death Star.) Herschel is not visible in these particular images.

It will be interesting to see if this eclipse event is clarified by the Cassini mission team in the future.

Raw image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Animation: J. Major.

Cassini Mission Highlight: Mile-High Spikes Along Saturn’s B Ring

Icy particles along Saturn's B ring rise dramatically in mile-high spikes, seen by Cassini in August 2009. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Icy particles along Saturn’s B ring rise dramatically in mile-high spikes, seen by Cassini in August 2009. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

A field of spike-like structures rise up over two miles from the outer edge of Saturn’s B ring in the amazing image above, captured by Cassini during Saturn’s spring equinox in August 2009. These pointy perturbations are caused by the gravitational nudges of tiny (~1/2 mile) embedded moonlets traveling around Saturn within the B ring, causing fine icy particles to “splash” upwards from the otherwise relatively flat ring when they pass by them. The moonlets themselves are held in their orbits by the gravity of Mimas.

The spikes were made visible mainly because of the angle of illumination at the time of equinox, which on Saturn occurs every 15 years and in this instance was on Aug. 11, 2009.

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Yes, Obi-Wan, That’s a Moon

Composite image of Mimas made from raw Cassini images acquired on Jan. 30, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/J. Major)

Composite image of Mimas made from raw Cassini images acquired on Jan. 30, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/J. Major)

Saturn’s 250-mile-wide icy moon Mimas shines in direct sunlight and reflected light from Saturn in this image, a composite of raw images acquired by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Jan. 30, 2017 and received on Earth today, Feb. 1. This is a bit of a “Frankenstein” job I made, assembled from five separate narrow-angle camera images taken in various wavelengths so the proportions are slightly off here and there, but the general placement of surface features are about right and the lighting is accurate to the scene. Mimas’ south pole is within the deeply shadowed area at the bottom; north is up.

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