The US space agency NASA’s Cassini spacecraft that is orbiting Saturn has beamed back an incredible image that shows moon Mimas crashing through the rings of parent planet. The entire scene is a delight to watch and scientists are astonished to see the image captured from a right angle and at the right moment.
However, scientists at NASA revealed that Mimas is actually 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) away from the rings and it will not crash through rings anytime soon. They further added that path of rings and moon are well-defined through gravity which also links them together. It is all due to the angle through which the image has been shot which gives us an appearance that Mimas might crash through rings.
Mimas was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. It is named after Mimas, a son of Gaia in Greek mythology, and is also designated Saturn I. With a diameter of 396 kilometres (246 mi) it is the smallest astronomical body that is known to be rounded in shape because of self-gravitation.
Scientists have noted waves in Saturn’s rings due to gravitational pull of Mimas in previous images sent by Cassini spacecraft. Mimas’ gravity also helps create the Cassini Division (not pictured here), which separates the A and B rings.
This view looks toward the anti-Saturn hemisphere of Mimas. North on Mimas is up and rotated 15 degrees to the right. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 23, 2016.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 114,000 miles (183,000 kilometers) from Mimas and at a Sun-Mimas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 29 degrees. Image scale is 3,300 feet (1 kilometer) per pixel.
Previously, Cassini has captured another stunning image of Mimas where the moon has been dwarfed by the massive rings of the Saturn. Mimas can be seen in lower left part of the image. The tiny moon gives an appearance that rings must be massive, but this is not the case. Scientists think the rings are no more than a few times as massive as Mimas, or perhaps just a fraction of Mimas’ mass. Cassini is expected to determine the mass of Saturn’s rings to within just a few hundredths of Mimas’ mass as the mission winds down by tracking radio signals from the spacecraft as it flies close to the rings.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.