NASA Cassini Spacecraft Sends Incredible Images Of Saturn's Moon Mimas And Pan
A few decades ago, Saturn was one of the planets that scientists knew very little of, except for its identifying rings. All that has changed drastically after the launch of the Cassini spacecraft. Ever since the Cassini spacecraft was launched, it has been providing insights into the various aspects of Saturn and its moons.
Recently, Cassini sent an up-close view of Pan, one of the most smallest moons of Saturn. The images were captured on March 7, when the moon passed the spacecraft at a distance of 15,268 miles, the closest ever. The images were received by NASA the following day and were recently released for public viewing.
The captured images clearly show that Pan is irregularly shaped, and its longest diameter is around 22 miles only. It has already been established that Pan orbits in the 200 miles wide Encke gap in the A ring of Saturn, which makes it the closest orbiting moon of the planet. While orbiting, it shepherds all the particles that remain suspended in the gap, which is why it is often referred to as the "shepherd moon."
According to Space.com, Cassini has managed to reach the closest to Saturn and its moons than ever. In addition to the recently sent images of Pan, earlier this year, it has also sent the images of Daphnis "the wavemaker" moon and Mimas "the death star" moon.
The NASA Cassini spacecraft is currently present in the "ring grazing orbits" and is preparing a transition from its current outer position to the gap between Saturn and its rings. The spacecraft is likely to position itself in the gap on April 22. According to the NASA officials, the spacecraft is destined to crash itself onto the surface of Saturn on Sep. 15, 2017. But before it does that, it will surely continue to provide new knowledge regarding the various aspects of Saturn and its 62 moons, Yahoo reported.
The Cassini spacecraft mission that started in 2004 is a collaborative effort of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency. While the mission is approaching to its end, its success is likely to promote the planning and implementation of similar space missions in the future.