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Moon Methone Meets Cassini

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the deep-space-exploration dept.

Space 28

MistrX writes with a tidbit about what the Cassini probe is up to nowadays. From the article: "NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn's tiny moon Methone as part of a trajectory that will take it on a close flyby of another of Saturn's moons, Titan. The Titan flyby will put the spacecraft in an orbit around Saturn that is inclined, or tilted, relative to the plane of the planet's equator. The flyby of Methone took place on May 20 at a distance of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers). It was Cassini's closest flyby of the 2-mile-wide (3-kilometer-wide) moon. The best previous Cassini images were taken on June 8, 2005, at a distance of about 140,000 miles (225,000 kilometers), and they barely resolved this object."

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28 comments

Raw imagery (5, Informative)

bonch (38532) | about 2 years ago | (#40078935)

There's a bunch of raw imagery up from Cassini at the CICLOPS imaging lab site here [ciclops.org].

Re:Raw imagery (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#40080001)

There's a bunch of raw imagery up from Cassini at the CICLOPS imaging lab site here.

A lot of the Cassini imagery was used for the animated, 3D IMAX movie Quantum Quest [imdb.com] which, incidentally, stars both Captains Kirk, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. It is a kids movie, so don't expect too much.

Re:Raw imagery (1)

saveferrousoxide (2566033) | about 2 years ago | (#40080177)

and their surfaces are sprayed by ice particles originating from the jets of water ice, water vapor and organic compounds emanating from the south polar area of the moon Enceladus

That just seems wrong for one moon to piss on another just because it's bigger.

Definition of Moon: The Coming Flamewar (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40079083)

"That's no moon."

Why is it so smooth? (3, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#40079113)

How can such a small object with a weak gravitational field, have such a smooth surface?

Re:Why is it so smooth? (3, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about 2 years ago | (#40079163)

It's called Meth One. It's obviously populated by tweakers with OCD scrubbing that little rock as smooth as can be.

Re:Why is it so smooth? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40079165)

Even Edward James Olmos looks smooth from 1200 miles.

Re:Why is it so smooth? (2)

sinistermidget (73363) | about 2 years ago | (#40079483)

From TFA:

The three tiny moons, called the Alkyonides group, are embedded in Saturn's E ring, and their surfaces are sprayed by ice particles originating from the jets of water ice, water vapor and organic compounds emanating from the south polar area of Enceladus.

So basically it's a spray on coating of organic material, AKA planetary porn.

Re:Why is it so smooth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40080017)

Just from the Wiki article, it's hard to tell. But if this is an icy moon it would make sense that all the gravitational harassment of the various other bodies would probably be enough to make it spherical. But, again, I really don't know.

Re:Why is it so smooth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40080351)

Left long enough uninterrupted by external forces, every object will form a smooth surface.

Re:Why is it so smooth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40080371)

I am sorry I meant cluster of objects clumped together, not single object.

Re:Why is it so smooth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40080435)

Here's a guess: it apparently orbits in the E-ring, which is related to the jets of ice from Enceladus. Maybe these tiny ring particles are somewhat sticky and have been accumulating on the surface for a long time, thus covering craters from larger objects? I seem to recall some of the small moons within Saturn's rings also having anomalously smooth surfaces. Ah, here we go: Atlas [wikipedia.org] and Pan [nasa.gov]. These two are not completely smoothed all over, but have accreted material along the plane where they sit in the ring. For Methone, the E-ring is quite broad, so perhaps the same effect smooths the whole thing?

Re:Why is it so smooth? (1)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#40080637)

Maybe jets of ionised particles from the planet or other moons sandblast (or should that be ionblast it smooth). Just like those aerodynamic rock sculptures in the desert areas.

Re:Why is it so smooth? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | about 2 years ago | (#40081405)

The other thing I wondered about from the picture was whether the elongated shape was a random thing like the shapes of some asteroids, or whether it was made out of some substance that was plastic enough to deform under the influence of Saturn's tidal forces. I guess it's not that far out from the Roche limit...?

what a pay-off (1)

eyenot (102141) | about 2 years ago | (#40081103)

As nail-biting (for myself, anyways) as the Cassini launch was, this probe has already more than paid off for its costs and everything else associated with it. I thought it was just going to be some pictures of Saturn.

Other object in the image? (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 2 years ago | (#40082149)

There seem to be elongated star-trails and out-of-focus objects in the raw image [nasa.gov]. I've highlighted a few [imgur.com]. What's interesting is that the star-trails aren't all in the same direction, or necessarily a spacecraft rotation artifact. Are these smaller objects in orbit around Methone, or the result of the image being a composite, perhaps?
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