Behold the Violent History of Saturn's White Whale Moon

Feb 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.

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