One Saturn Moon, Over Easy


Order up!

—Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Somewhere there’s an intergalactic diner that’s missing part of a really big blue-plate special.

Of course, in reality this is Saturn‘s moon Prometheus cast in a rather unusual light, as seen by NASA’s Cassini orbiter on January 27.

In this raw, unprocessed snapshot, Cassini caught the moon at just the right angle that natural light makes the porous, icy body look like a fried egg.

Now, Saturn has a lot of moons—more than 60 known and about 50 with official names—and the list keeps growing. In fact, just last March Cassini spotted a new moon hidden among Saturn’s rings.

According to NASA, Saturn’s many moons are a study in contrasts, varying “drastically in shape, size, surface age, and origin.”

Among the oddities:

  • Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, with a thick atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane;
  • Enceladus, an icy body spitting out plumes of frozen particles rich in organics;
  • Iapetus, a “two-faced” moon shaped like a walnut

Prometheus, which has been known about since 1980, is one of Saturn’s inner moons, orbiting the planet at a mere 85,590 miles (140,000 kilometers).

The tiny moon is so close that it orbits just inside Saturn’s outer F ring, sometimes crossing the ring and pulling out streamers of material.

Although named for a mythological Titan, Prometheus is relatively small—just 92 x 62 x 42 miles (148 x 100 x 68 kilometers).

The new snapshot showcases Cassini’s ability to zoom in on Saturn’s moons and reveal fine details that could lead to new and improved scientific insights.

But for now, all I wanna know is, where’s the celestial bacon?

Human Journey