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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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That’s No Space Station, It’s a MOON!

First Alderaan, then Prometheus?? Here we go again!

Mimas_2-10Saturn’s moon Mimas looks uncannily like the Death Star, and this animation by Diamond Sky Productions makes the resemblance even more apparent. Now witness the power of this fully-armed battle station!

(No shepherd moons were harmed in the making of this video.)

Video © Diamond Sky Productions, LLC using images from the Cassini spacecraft. Read more about Mimas here.

A Golden Oldie

Mimas hides in the shadow of Saturn's rings.

Time to go “all way back” to 2006! In this Cassini image beautifully color calibrated by Gordan Ugarkovic we see the moon Mimas tucked into the shadow of Saturn’s rings. Nicknamed the “Death Star” moon, Mimas features a large crater with a sharp central peak, giving it a striking resemblance to the infamous sci-fi space station.

Here, however, it just appears as a dark crescent-lit sphere hiding in the shadow of a giant… waiting until it comes within range, perhaps? 🙂

This image was captured on June 7, 2006.

Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Gordan Ugarkovic. See this and more of Gordan’s color composites on his Flickr page here.

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.

Blowing off Steam

Enceladus surrounds Saturn with its icy spray

Ok, it’s not steam but ice….but you get the idea!

Literally just in from the imaging center, this raw image shows us a crescent-lit Enceladus as it sprays its water-ice jets out into space, surrounding itself  – and Saturn! – with the diffuse E-ring. Surrounding Saturn like a hazy doughnut beyond the main rings at a distance of 110,000 miles (that’s about halfway from the Earth to the Moon), the E-ring is made up of particles sprayed out from Enceladus and is nearly 200,000 miles wide. This little moon has been at it for quite some time!

I rotated the image 180º from the original (so the moon’s south pole is down, as we humans like to see it) and plucked out some dust bits and hot pixels in Photoshop but otherwise it’s an untouched image.

Remind me again why I love Cassini? Oh yeah, because of images like this. 🙂

Mimas passes by Enceladus

This was a nice one too, normally images of Enceladus’ south pole don’t have another moon passing by in the distance! But here we see Mimas drifting by, with what seems to be some reflected light from Enceladus illuminating its night side. Which makes sense since being nearly all ice Enceladus is the most reflective body in the solar system!

Image: NASA / JPL / SSI.

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