Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

October 10, 1995
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Dione's Lagrange Moon Helene
Credit: NASA, Voyager 2

Explanation: Saturn's moon Helene is very unusual in that it circles Saturn near the orbit of a bigger moon: Dione. Helene is situated in what is called a "Lagrange point" of Dione - a place of stability created by Dione's gravity. Were Helene to stray slightly from its orbit 1/6 ahead of Dione, the larger moon's gravity would cause Helene to move back toward the Lagrange point. Many massive orbital bodies have stable Lagrange points, including the Earth and Moon. Helene was discovered from the ground by P. Laques & J. Lecacheux in 1980. The photograph above was taken by Voyager 2 as it passed Saturn in 1981. NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn is currently scheduled for launch in October 1997.

Tomorrow's picture: LMC Star Clouds

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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