spaceSpace and Physics

Cassini Snaps Best Ever Image Of Saturn's Odd Moon Pandora


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


Cassini's view of Pandora. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Saturn has more than 50 moons, so you’d be forgiven for not remembering all of them. But one, Pandora, has just come into sharper view – and it looks pretty odd.

New images of Pandora were captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, currently in orbit around Saturn. They are our best ever images of the small moon, revealing two odd craters on its surface.


The small moon is just 84 kilometers (52 miles) across, and orbits just outside Saturn’s narrow F ring. The images were taken while Cassini was at a distance of 40,500 kilometers (25,200 miles) from Pandora. The resolution of the image is 240 meters (787 feet) per pixel.

Previously, the best image of Pandora was taken in September 2005 by Cassini, showing about 300 meters (1,000 feet) per pixel. That image was taken from a more distant location of 52,000 kilometers (32,000 miles).

Cassini's previous best view of Pandora, in 2005. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The presence of the two large craters is particularly interesting, though, as they seem to take up quite a large portion of the moon’s surface. In a tweet, NASA’s Cassini team said that Pandora would break apart if it was hit hard enough. Apparently, the impacts that made these craters were not powerful enough to do so.


Cassini snapped these image while in its ring-grazing orbits, a series of dives past Saturn’s rings to get new data and even samples. Cassini will be completing 20 orbits during this phase of the mission, continuing until April 22.

Next year, though, we’ll be bidding farewell, as Cassini will end its mission with a dive into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15. There’ll be plenty more images like this before then, though.



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