Cassini snaps image of the Saturnian moons Enceladus, Rhea and Atlas
NASA has released astunning image captured by its Cassini spacecraft, showcasing the gasgiant's distinctive rings framed by three of its eclectic moons. Theimage was taken soon after the veteran spacecraft's final flyby ofthe icy moon Enceladus, which took place on Dec. 19.
At the time the imagewas taken, Enceladus was orbiting at a distance of approximately 1.3million miles (2.1 million km) from the veteran spacecraft, with thelarger moon Rhea roughly 1.8 million miles (2.8 million km) distant.The image captures the unilluminated side of Saturn's familiar ringsystem, causing it to appear relatively dull when compared to thesunward facing regions of the moons.
A third tiny moon knownas Atlas is also captured in the new release. However, despite thefact that the moon was closer than Rhea at the time of snapping theimage, its relatively diminutive size of only 20 miles (32 km) indiameter causes Atlas to appear as little more than a grey speckabove Saturn's F ring.
Later this year,Cassini will begin the "Grand Finale", which will see thespacecraft undertake a series of daring maneuvers, including 22passes between Saturn's surface and its innermost ring.