Cassini closes in on Saturn's tumbling moon Hyperion

Aug 26, 2011
NASA's Cassini spacecraft obtained this unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Hyperion on Aug. 25, 2011. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured new views of Saturn's oddly shaped moon Hyperion during its encounter with this cratered body on Thursday, Aug. 25. Raw images were acquired as the spacecraft flew past the moon at a distance of about 15,500 miles (25,000 kilometers), making this the second closest encounter.

Hyperion is a small moon -- just 168 miles (270 kilometers) across. It has an irregular shape and surface appearance, and it rotates chaotically as it tumbles along in orbit. This odd rotation prevented scientists from predicting exactly what terrain the spacecraft's cameras would image during this flyby.

However, this flyby's closeness has likely allowed Cassini's cameras to map new territory. At the very least, it will help scientists improve color measurements of the moon. It will also help them determine how the moon's brightness changes as lighting and viewing conditions change, which can provide insight into the texture of the surface. The color measurements provide additional information about different materials on the moon's deeply pitted surface.

Side view taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft of Saturn's moon Hyperion. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The latest raw images of Hyperion are online at: http://.jpl..gov/photos/raw/ .

Cassini's closest encounter with Hyperion was on September 26, 2005, when the spacecraft flew approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the moon's surface.

Cassini's next of Hyperion will be on Sept. 16, 2011, when it passes the tumbling moon at a distance of about 36,000 miles (58,000 kilometers).

Explore further: Image: Europa's Jupiter-facing hemisphere

Related Stories

Cassini's Doubleheader Flybys Score Home Run

Sep 30, 2005

Cassini performed back-to-back flybys of Saturn moons Tethys and Hyperion last weekend, coming closer than ever before to each of them. Tethys has a scarred, ancient surface, while Hyperion is a strange, spongy-looking body ...

Cassini's Photo Album From a Season of Icy Moons

Dec 07, 2005

Wrapping up a phenomenally successful year of observing Saturn's icy moons, the Cassini mission is releasing a flood of new views of the moons Enceladus, Dione, Rhea, Hyperion and Iapetus.

Cassini captures ice queen Helene

Jun 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has successfully completed its second-closest encounter with Saturn's icy moon Helene, beaming down raw images of the small moon. At closest approach, on June 18, ...

Recommended for you

Image: Europa's Jupiter-facing hemisphere

20 hours ago

This 12-frame mosaic provides the highest resolution view ever obtained of the side of Jupiter's moon Europa that faces the giant planet. It was obtained on Nov. 25, 1999 by the camera onboard the Galileo ...

SpaceX cleared for US military launches

21 hours ago

The US Air Force has certified private company SpaceX to launch military satellites, opening the doors to a lucrative market previously held solely by a Lockheed and Boeing joint venture.

User comments : 0

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.