Behold the Violent History of Saturn's White Whale Moon

February 19, 2010
Saturn's potato-shaped moon Prometheus is rendered in three dimensions in this close-up from Cassini. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

(PhysOrg.com) -- Like the battered white whale Moby Dick taunting Captain Ahab, Saturn's moon Prometheus surges toward the viewer in a 3-D image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The image exposes the irregular shape and circular surface scars on Prometheus, pointing to a violent history. These craters are probably the remnants from impacts long ago.

Prometheus is one of Saturn's innermost moons. It orbits the gas-giant at a distance of about 140,000 kilometers (86,000 miles) and is 86 kilometers (53 miles) across at its widest point. The porous, icy world was originally discovered in images taken by NASA's back in 1980.

Cassini's narrow-angle camera captured two black-and-white images of the moon on Dec. 26, 2009, and the imaging team combined the images to make this new stereo view. It looks different from the "egg-cellent" raw image of Prometheus obtained on Jan. 27 because that view shows one of the short ends of the oddly shaped moon. In this 3-D image, the sun illuminates Prometheus at a different angle, making the moon's elongated body visible.

Explore further: Prometheus: Over Easy

Related Stories

Prometheus: Over Easy

January 29, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Looking for all intents and purposes like a celestial egg after a session in Saturn's skillet, Prometheus displayed its pockmarked, irregular surface for NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Jan. 27, 2010.

Cassini finds Prometheus a sculptor of Saturn's rings

October 26, 2005

New findings from members of the Cassini imaging team show that certain prominent features in Saturn's narrow and contorted F ring can be understood in terms of a simple gravitational interaction with the small moon Prometheus. ...

Rhea's Wisps in Color

February 28, 2006

Bright, wispy markings stretch across a region of darker terrain on Saturn's moon Rhea. In this extreme false-color view, the roughly north-south fractures occur within strips of material (which appear greenish here) that ...

Recommended for you

Curiosity rover team examining new drill hiatus

December 6, 2016

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is studying its surroundings and monitoring the environment, rather than driving or using its arm for science, while the rover team diagnoses an issue with a motor that moves the rover's drill.

Cassini makes first ring-grazing plunge

December 6, 2016

NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has made its first close dive past the outer edges of Saturn's rings since beginning its penultimate mission phase on Nov. 30.

New dwarf satellite galaxy of Messier 83 found

December 5, 2016

(Phys.org)—Astronomers have found a new dwarf satellite of Messier 83 (M83, also known as the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy) located some 85,000 light years from its host. This satellite galaxy was designated dw1335-29 and could ...

Colliding galaxy clusters

December 5, 2016

Galaxy clusters contain a few to thousands of galaxies and are the largest bound structures in the universe. Most galaxies are members of a cluster. Our Milky Way, for example, is a member of the "Local Group," a set of about ...

ALMA measures size of seeds of planets

December 5, 2016

Researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), have for the first time, achieved a precise size measurement of small dust particles around a young star through radio-wave polarization. ALMA's high ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.