NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent back some images of Atlas, an atypical...
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent back some images of Atlas, an atypical moon of Saturn that looks like a flying saucer, orbiting just outside the gas giant’s rings.
According to NASA, Atlas orbits Saturn just outside its outermost main, bright ring, the ring A. It is just around 19 miles or 30 kilometers across. The moon Pan, which has a similar appearance, is even smaller.
The spacecraft captured Atlas’ pictures on 12th of April as it passed within 7,000 miles or 11,000 kilometers of the flying saucer-shaped moon. The images show Atlas in unprecedented clarity.
Both Pan and Atlas look like a miniature version of the gas giant Saturn as both of these moons feature a bulbous central body as well as a flat ridge spanning the equator.
Atlas was first spotted by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1980. Astronomers estimated that it orbits around 85,500 miles from Saturn and completes one lap in 14.4 hours.
Running really low on fuel, Cassini is in the final phase of its Saturn system-exploring mission. It is heading for a planned dive into the planet’s atmosphere on 15th of April next year, to avoid a collision with one of the planet’s possibly habitable moons.
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