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Stunning New Image of Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Mimas Reveals Unprecedented Details

Mar 15, 2017 10:46 AM EDT
Cassini probe captured a stunning image of Saturn's moon Mimas. The images were taken during the spacecraft's last flyby to the moon. (Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

The NASA Cassini spacecraft, that's approaching the final days of its mission to Saturn, produced the most detailed image of the ringed planet's moon, Mimas. The photograph will give astronomers and scientists ample data to further investigate the water content of the moon.

The image, one of the last from Cassini, was taken during the spacecraft's final approach to Mimas last Jan. 30. Cassini was 25,620 miles (41,230 kilometers) away from the Saturn's moon when the images were taken.

Mimas earned its nickname "Death Star" after the famous "Star Wars" moon. It was first discovered in 1978 along with its famous Herschel Crater.

The mosaic image is one of the most detailed ever taken of Mimas, NASA said. Scientists will have to use the following data before the next, and closer observations of Mimas will be launched.

The data collected from the Mimas flyby is valuable for astronomers and scientists worldwide since Cassini only performed a total of seven flybys to the moon at distances less than 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers).

Like most moons, Saturn's icy moon Mimas is rich with craters from impacts. For easier analysis, NASA released two versions of the mosaic where the first one shows the enhanced light reflection from Saturn and the second one with natural illumination.

To create the mosaic, images from ten narrow-angled cameras were combined.

"The scene is an orthographic projection centered on terrain at 17.5 degrees south latitude, 325.4 degrees west longitude on Mimas," a NASA official said.

The orthographic view is the view seen by observers from a distance using a telescope. The images that comprised the mosaic is a combination of photographs taken during the flyby at about 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) from Mimas. The image resolution is at 820 feet (250 meters) per pixel.

Unfortunately, the detailed images of Mimas are Cassini's ode or farewell to the moon since it is now performing its ring-grazing mission that also signifies the proximity or end of its mission in the Saturn region.

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