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

Bursts of methane may have warmed early Mars

January 24, 2017

The presence of water on ancient Mars is a paradox. There's plenty of geographical evidence that rivers periodically flowed across the planet's surface. Yet in the time period when these waters are supposed to have run—three ...

Gaia turns its eyes to asteroid hunting

January 24, 2017

While best known for its surveys of the stars and mapping the Milky Way in three dimensions, ESA's Gaia has many more strings to its bow. Among them, its contribution to our understanding of the asteroids that litter the ...

Dwarf galaxies shed light on dark matter

January 23, 2017

The first sighting of clustered dwarf galaxies bolsters a leading theory about how big galaxies such as our Milky Way are formed, and how dark matter binds them, researchers said Monday.

One of the brightest distant galaxies known discovered

January 23, 2017

An international team led by researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL) has discovered one of the brightest "non-active" galaxies in the early universe. Finding ...

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.