Tags: cassini | atlas | saturn moon | nasa

Cassini Sees Atlas; Saturn Moon Captured by NASA Spacecraft Camera

Image: Cassini Sees Atlas; Saturn Moon Captured by NASA Spacecraft Camera
A photo of Saturn's Atlas moon the NASA Cassini spacecraft caught on camera. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

By    |   Friday, 14 Apr 2017 05:49 PM

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured photos of Atlas during its closest approach to Saturn's moon Tuesday.

Space.com described the images as the "best-ever photos" of the moon, which resembles a "flying saucer." They were taken as the spacecraft came within about 7,000 miles of Atlas.

"These images are the closest ever taken of Atlas and will help to characterize its shape and geology," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement. The moon orbits outside Saturn's A ring, the planet's outermost bright ring. 

NASA posted about the images on its @CassiniSaturn Twitter account.


The mission is a joint effort of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. It began in 1997, reached Saturn in 2004, and is expected to end with Cassini's "death dive" into the planet's atmosphere on Sept. 15, Space.com noted.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft first observed Atlas in 1980, according to the International Business Times, adding that the tiny moon is about 19 miles across.

"It’s very interesting to see it close up after decades of knowing it was there," said Richard Terrile at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who discovered the moon in 1980, according to New Scientist. "Finally seeing it as a real piece of real estate is very, very interesting."

Observing the ridges around the moon's equator could help scientists understand the effects of gravity there.

"The same gravity that causes all these weird phenomena that we’re seeing on these little moons causes energy to be pumped into some of the larger ones," Terrile said, according to New Scientist. "And that energy can create under-ice oceans, maybe even habitable zones."

Also this week, NASA announced that another Saturn moon, Enceladus, and Jupiter's moon Europa might support life, IBT noted.

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NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured photos of Atlas during its closest approach to Saturn's moon Tuesday.
cassini, atlas, saturn moon, nasa
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2017-49-14
Friday, 14 Apr 2017 05:49 PM
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