Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 October 26
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In, Through, and Beyond Saturn's Rings
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: A fourth moon is visible on the above image if you look hard enough. First -- and farthest in the background -- is Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and one of the larger moons in the Solar System. The dark feature across the top of this perpetually cloudy world is the north polar hood. The next most obvious moon is bright Dione, visible in the foreground, complete with craters and long ice cliffs. Jutting in from the left are several of Saturn's expansive rings, including Saturn's A ring featuring the dark Encke Gap. On the far right, just outside the rings, is Pandora, a moon only 80-kilometers across that helps shepherd Saturn's F ring. The fourth moon? If you look closely in the Encke Gap you'll find a speck that is actually Pan. Although one of Saturn's smallest moons at 35-kilometers across, Pan is massive enough to help keep the Encke gap relatively free of ring particles.

Tomorrow's picture: open space

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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