A deep space illusion: Mimas, the rings of Saturn and Cassini

Mimas, one of the moons of Saturn, seems to be on a collision course with the earth of the rings. No fear, it is just an illusion in this image snapped by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Collision course! … or not. Saturn’s battered moon Mimas seems to be headed for a crash through the planet’s trademark rings, but it’s just an optical illusion seen by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Although it seems as if Mimas is about to smash into the rings of Saturn, the moon is actually the 28.000 km away. “There is a strong connection between the icy moon and the Saturn rings, but,” NASA officials wrote in a description of the image, which the agency released Dec. 19. “The force of gravity that connects them together and forms the way they both move.”

Mimas, which is less than 250 km in diameter, creates ripples in the rings of Saturn with his gravity-NASA officials added. This distortion separates the A and B rings, an event called the Cassini division. [Photos: Saturn’s Glorious Rings up Close]

Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA and the European and Italian space agencies. In addition to NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, the mission also sent ESA’s Huygens probe on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in January 2005.

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  • Saturn’s battered moon Mimas

  • Photos: Saturn’s Glorious Rings up Close

Cassini has collected great amounts of data about Saturn and its rings and moons) over the years. The spacecraft began the grand finale of the mission, at the end of 2016, and will eventually end its mission with a death plunge into Saturn itself on Sept. 15, 2017.

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