NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took its last close-up look at Saturn’s moon Mimas on January 30, 2017.
NASA reports that the probe’s closest approach brought it to a distance of 25,620 miles above the crater-pocked moon’s surface. For the rest of its mission, Cassini will come no closer than over twice that distance.
Cassini’s high-resolution images of Mimas have allowed astronomers to assemble comprehensive mosaics of the moon’s surface. NASA has released images of Mimas showing the moon with enhanced lighting effects as well as with light naturally reflected off Saturn’s surface.
Mimas is entirely riddled with craters, including a huge crater named Herschel which gives the icy moon the appearance of the Death Star space station from the Star Wars movies. The giant crater was named after William Herschel, who discovered the small moon. At 86 miles wide, the Herschel crater extends for almost one-third of the moon’s diameter. At the crater’s center lies a mountain that rises nearly as high as Mount Everest above the crater floor.
The final close-up images of Mimas were taken in visible light with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera. Imaging engineers connected ten images to create a mosaic of one full side of the moon. The image scale is about 820 feet per pixel.
The Cassini mission arose from a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. Cassini exceeded expectations and collected a wealth of information as it spent over a decade studying the Saturnian system. Cassini will continue to explore the Saturn along with the planet’s moons and rings until it takes a final planned plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere.