NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Saturn serves up the closest thing to space pasta, the latest images from NASA’s Cassini probe, released March 9, show.
On March 7, the spacecraft snapped a series of portraits (one shown above) of Pan, Saturn’s small moon that orbits within a 325-kilometer-wide gap in one of the planet’s rings. Taken at a distance of 24,572 kilometers from the moon, these are the closest images of Pan to date.
The close-ups could help refine astronomers’ understanding of the moon’s geology. Pan has a distinctive ridge along its equator, which had prompted astronomers to liken the moon to a flying saucer. But in the new images, Pan’s ridge isn’t uniform. Its unevenness creates an overall shape that more closely resembles a ravioli or a wrinkly walnut.
Still, the ridge’s distinctness is “what is so spectacular and eye-opening in