Cassini Set to Do Retinal Scan of Saturnian Eyeball

Feb 12, 2010
During its approach to Mimas on Aug. 2, 2005, the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera obtained multi-spectral views of the moon from a range of 228,000 kilometers (142,500 miles). Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

(PhysOrg.com) -- On Feb. 13, 2010, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will make its closest examination yet of Mimas, an eyeball-shaped moon of Saturn that has also been likened to the Death Star of "Star Wars." The spacecraft will be returning the highest-resolution images yet of this battered satellite.

Mimas bears the mark of a violent, giant impact from the past - the 140-kilometer-wide (88-mile-wide) Herschel Crater - and scientists hope the encounter will help them explain why the moon was not blown to smithereens when the impact happened. They will also be trying to count smaller dings inside the basin of Herschel Crater so they can better estimate its age.

In addition, Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer will be working to determine the thermal signature of the moon, and other instruments will be making measurements to learn more about the .

The Mimas flyby involves a significant amount of skill because the spacecraft will be passing through a dusty region to get there. Mission managers have planned for the to lead with its high-gain antenna to provide a barrier of protection. At closest approach, the will be flying about 9,500 kilometers (5,900 miles) above the moon. Cassini will start taking images and measurements shortly after closest approach.

Mimas is an inner moon of that averages 396 kilometers (246 miles) in diameter. The diameter of Herschel Crater is about one-third that of the entire . The walls of the crater are about 5 kilometers (3 miles) high, and parts of the floor are approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep.

Explore further: Dawn spacecraft captures best-ever view of dwarf planet

Related Stories

Cassini flies by Saturn's tortured moon Mimas

Aug 05, 2005

On its recent close flyby of Mimas (MY-muss), the Cassini spacecraft found the Saturnian moon looking battered and bruised, with a surface that may be the most heavily cratered in the Saturn system.

Cassini Attempts 12th Titan Flyby

Feb 28, 2006

NASA's Cassini spacecraft returns to Titan on Monday for its twelfth flyby since beginning to survey Saturn and its moons on July 4, 2004.

Route 66: Cassini's Next Look at Titan

Jan 27, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Sixteen days after last visiting Saturn's largest moon, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returns for another look-see of the cloud-shrouded moon - this time from on high. The flyby on Thursday, Jan. ...

Cassini Goes On

Aug 24, 2004

The Cassini spacecraft successfully completed a 51-minute engine burn that will raise its next closest approach distance to Saturn by nearly 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles). The maneuver was necessary to keep the spacec ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Dawn spacecraft captures best-ever view of dwarf planet

20 hours ago

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on Jan. 25, and represent a new milestone for ...

Image: Striking lightning from space

Jan 27, 2015

Lightning illuminates the area it strikes on Earth but the flash can be seen from space, too. This image was taken from 400 km above Earth in 2012 by an astronaut on the International Space Station travelling ...

Are asteroids the future of planetary science?

Jan 27, 2015

I don't think I ever learned one of those little rhymes – My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas – to memorize the order of the planets, but if I had, it would've painted for me a minimalist ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

nuge
Feb 12, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
fourthrocker
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2010
So how many planets and moons AREN'T eyeball shaped?
OckhamsRazor
Feb 13, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

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.