CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Tiny Mimas, Huge Rings
[For trouble viewing the images/movies on this page, go here]
Saturn's icy moon Mimas is dwarfed by the planet's enormous rings.

Because Mimas (near lower left) appears tiny by comparison, it might seem that the rings would be far more massive, but this is not the case. Scientists think the rings are no more than a few times as massive as Mimas, or perhaps just a fraction of Mimas' mass. Cassini is expected to determine the mass of Saturn's rings to within just a few hundredths of Mimas' mass as the mission winds down by tracking radio signals from the spacecraft as it flies close to the rings.

The rings, which are made of small, icy particles spread over a vast area, are extremely thin – generally no thicker than the height of a house. Thus, despite their giant proportions, the rings contain a surprisingly small amount of material.

Mimas is 246 miles (396 kilometers) wide.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 6 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 21, 2016.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 564,000 miles (907,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 31 degrees. Image scale is 34 miles (54 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini Solstice Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini Solstice Mission visit http://ciclops.org, http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Released: November 28, 2016 (PIA 20509)
Image/Caption Information
  Tiny Mimas, Huge Rings
PIA 20509

Avg Rating: 9.73/10

Full Size 1020x1020:
JPEG 262 KB
PNG 480 KB
TIFF 658 KB


Alliance Member Comments
Ensign John (Nov 30, 2016 at 8:50 AM):
Beautiful and Awe-inspiring.
NeKto (Nov 29, 2016 at 10:18 AM):
wow

Want to add a comment?   Login (for Alliance Members) ... or ... Join the CICLOPS Alliance!