Saturn’s icy moon Dione shines in a stunning Cassini photos

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this image of the Saturn moon Dione on July 23, 2012.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

The scarred face of Saturn’s cold moon Dione will get a close-up of a beautiful picture from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Although the image was released Monday (March 12), Cassini took on July 23, 2012, when the probe was about 260,000 miles (418,000 kilometers) from the heavily cratered Dione, NASA officials said.

698 miles (1,123 km) wide, Dione is the fourth largest of Saturn’s 60-plus satellites. The icy moon orbits at 234,000 miles (377,400 km) from Saturn, about the same distance that our own moon is from the Earth. But Dione zips to the ringed planet once every 2.7 days on Earth, while our moon takes 10 times as long to complete a job. [Cassini’s Greatest Hits: The Best Saturn Photos]

Measurements of Dione’s density to that of the satellite consists of a large, rocky core surrounded by water ice, NASA officials said. However, a 2016 modelling study suggested that the moon may also harbor an ocean of liquid water, buried about 60 miles (100 km) beneath the icy shell.

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Fellow Saturn moons Enceladus and Titan — and the satellites of Jupiter-Europa, Callisto and Ganymede — are strong suspicions that such a buried oceans, which may be able to support life as we know it.

Although Cassini’s images and discoveries, the spacecraft itself is gone, to have plunged intentionally into the atmosphere of Saturn in September 2017. Mission managers programmed this suicide dive to ensure that the low-on-fuel Cassini was never infected Enceladus or Titan with microbes from Earth.

The Cassini Saturn orbiter was the centerpiece of the $3.2 billion Cassini-Huygens mission, launched in October 1997 and arrived in the Saturn system in the summer of 2004. Huygens was one of the European lander, reed, piggybacking with the Cassini and made a historic landing on Titan in January 2005.

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