October 02, 2005

Ooooooh, shiny!

Well, maybe not shiny enough to see from the backyard, but definitely shiny enough for the Cassini spacecraft to capture this excellent image. May we present Saturn's weird little moon, Hyperion — probably one of the oldest objects in the Solar System. It reminds us of what you'd get if you crossed a wasp nest with a kitchen sponge.

Saturn's moon Hyperion

Hyperion as captured by the Cassini spacecraft's narrow-angle camera at a distance of approximately 62,000 km/38,500 mi.
[Image: Nasa/JPL/Space Science Institute]

Images of Hyperion taken on Sept. 26 show a surface dotted with craters and modified by some process, not yet understood, to create a strange, "spongy" appearance, unlike the surface of any other Saturn moon.

A false-color image of Hyperion reveals crisp details and variations in color across the strange surface that might represent differences in the composition of materials. Hyperion has a notably reddish tint when viewed in natural color.

Scientists are extremely curious to learn what the dark material is that fills many craters on this moon. Features within the dark terrain, including a 200-meter-wide (650-feet) impact crater surrounded by rays and numerous bright-rimmed craters, indicate that the dark material may be only tens of meters thick with brighter material beneath.

Besides its close encounter with Hyperion, the Cassini probe also did a fly-by of Tethys, gathering some fascinating pictures that you can view here.

Via BBC and NASA.

Posted by Magpie at October 2, 2005 03:02 PM | Shiny Things | Technorati links |