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Saturn - The Moons of Saturn

There are currently 33 satellites orbiting Saturn. Data on all of the satellites can be found on NASA's Saturnian Satellite Fact Sheet website.

The moon that is getting most of the attention is Titan, the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere:

The image above shows the atmosphere of Titan, and all 12 layers is seen here.

Prior to the Huygens probe visit to Titan, Cassini imaged the surface of Titan using a combination of filters and image enhancements:

But the excitement of the Huygens probe has been discussed in the Astrobiology section of the website.

While there are a large number of satellites to talk about, we will only discuss the more "important" and more interesting. Just like the major moons of Jupiter, the majority of Saturn's moons are of a rocky-ice composite.

One cannot talk about the satellites of Saturn without showing the "Death Star."

The moon Mimas does in fact resemble the famous George Lucas icon. It is also very small - only 392 km in diameter.

I am not sure if George Lucas used this moon as inspiration, but the resemblance is uncanny. This image of the Death Star is from the official Star Wars website. The crater of Mimas is almost the same proportion as the Death Star's main weapons aperture.

Another fascinating moon is Enceledus. By the looks of it, it appears to have been ripped apart then put back together:

it is also very small at only 501 km in diameter.

The larger moon, Tethys, at 1,060 km in diameter is a very heavily cratered moon - probably one of the most cratered in the Solar System:

The crack that appears on the middle left of the moon is actually a 2,000 km long crack along the surface.

The next three moons are also very unusual as they have completely different looking hemispheres:

At 1,120km in diameter, Dione leads the three in variation. The one side shows the "normal" cratered space body:

While the other side shows something completely different:


Not as dramatic as Dione is Rhea. Rhea is larger at 1,530 km and features a smooth side:

And a heavily cratered side:

Iapetus has the same pattern as Rhea, but the latest Cassini images shows a curious white powder:

The material is thought to be impact debris from some other object within the Saturnian system.

The remaining moons of Saturn resemble asteroid-like bodies. A good example is the moon Phoebe - only 200 km long. This high resolution image by Cassini shows Phoebe up close for the first time:

I will end this section with two favorite images, this time from Cassini. The first shows Dione with a Saturn backdrop and the second shows a very high resolution image of Dione:

Be sure to keep watch of the Cassini-Huygens webpage for updates photographs and data.

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