NASA’s Cassini takes several images of the “walnut-shaped” moon of Saturn, Pan

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Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini is up in the news for a new reason. This time its not about Saturn or its rings, its about the planet’s moon.

Pan, named after a mythological character, the god of shepherds is the second innermost moon of Saturn. Mark R. Showalter discovered this back in 1990. The first images of the moon dates back to 1981.

NASA’s Cassini has captured several raw images of the moon, earlier this week. Scientists said that this moon was quite distinct in its shape. They described Pan as “walnut shaped” owing to the equatorial ridge. These are also present on Atlas. According to the scientists, the ridge is due to ring material that Pan has swept up from the Encke gap. This gap contains a ringlet that is coincident with Pan’s orbit. This further indicates that Pan maintains the particles in horseshoe orbits.

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Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini took these raw, unprocessed images of Saturn’s tiny moon, Pan, on March 7, 2017. The flyby had a close-approach distance of 24,572 kilometers.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

These images are the closest images ever taken of Pan and will help to characterize its shape and also its geology. The Cassini imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, also manages the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.