Check out Cassini’s stunning pics of Pan, Saturn’s ravioli-like moon

10 Mar 2017

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini’s fascinating mission around Saturn has thrown up its latest surprise, with Pan, one of the giant planet’s moons, taking a peculiar shape.

Much like a piece of ravioli, Saturn’s moon Pan is one of the oddest-shaped bodies in our solar system.

The latest images of Pan – one of dozens of satellites of the planet –  come from the closest flyby of the moon ever.


Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Cassini spacecraft is well into its final stages, diving through Saturn’s many rings on 20 occasions to measure their make-up.

When this ends in April, Cassini will then dive below the rings, taking 22 trips between them and the planet’s surface, providing scientists with the best ever look at what the planet’s surface is really like.

It will then crash into Saturn, providing one final tranche of scientific readings, hopefully building a portfolio of information to allow NASA researchers to fully understand the planet’s atmosphere.

The current leg of Cassini’s mission sees it shooting in and out of the outer edges of the rings every week, and several images have already been delivered from earlier dives. Its portfolio of imagery is extensive, with Pan’s pictures the strangest of the lot so far.

Enceladus, a moon offering far more general scientific interest, has also been the focus of much of Cassini’s attention.

Earlier this week, spacecraft delivered this stunning image of the anti-Saturn hemisphere of the moon. North on Enceladus is up and rotated four degrees to the right.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus is home to what scientists hope is water and its topography is simply fascinating.

There are numerous craters to the north, evidence of the many impacts the moon has suffered in its history.

However, to the south, we see a smoother body with wrinkles due to geologic activity.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic