Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Different Angle

This photo is in the public domain.

At first glance, this photo looks pretty normal. Well, normal enough for a photograph taken of a moon orbiting within the rings of Saturn.

It’s Mimas, with its oblate sphereoid shape showing well in this photo – if you squint at it just right, you can see the moon is slightly egg-shaped.

Then look at the moon on its right side.

Looks kinda flat, right?

You’re not seeing things. It is flat. At least from that angle. What you’re actually seeing is the ridge that rings Crater Herschel, a massive impact crater on the moon’s surface.

The moon itself is only about 400 kilometers across. Herschel is 130 km across – or almost a third of the diameter of the moon.

Here’s a photo with a better view of the crater, taken by Voyager 2. (The first was taken by the Cassini space probe.)

This photo is in the public domain.

I’m currently working on a novel that takes place on one of Saturn’s other moons, Iapetus. I may have to work Mimas into it somehow. Not that Iapetus is a slacker in the weird looks department, either. Behold:

This photo is in the public domain.

It’s got a pretty massive impact crater of its own, plus that odd equatorial ridge that makes the moon look like a walnut.

Ah, the weirdness of space.

More sciencey stuff here.

And here:

This video clip is used under the fair use doctrine for commentary purposes.

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