Portrait of Phoebe: Cassini images a large Saturn moon

10:06am, June 16, 2004

By any standard, Saturn's moon Phoebe is an oddball. The largest of Saturn's outer satellites, it's barely held in place by the massive planet's gravity. Phoebe is among a handful of so-called irregular moons, which swoop above and below the plane of Saturn's rings and orbit backward with respect to the rotation of the planet.

On June 11, the Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft took the first close-up images ever recorded of this maverick moon. Flying within 2,068 kilometers of Phoebe, the spacecraft found a "world of dramatic landforms, with craters everywhere, landslides, and linear structures such as grooves, ridges, and chains of pits," says Cassini scientist Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

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