Saturn’s tiny moon friend, Daphnis, is finally getting its close-up. In a stunning new image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, the elusive moon can be seen peeking out from within the Keeler gap of Saturn’s rings. According to NASA, the image was taken in visible (green) light by Cassini’s narrow-angle camera.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
It’s the closest look at Daphnis we’ve ever had — and I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty cute.
Though Daphnis is small — just 8km in diameter — it’s mighty. As it orbits in the Keeler gap at the outer edge of Saturn’s A ring, the moon’s gravity creates waves horizontally and vertically. That alone distinguishes the “wavemaker” moon from the 61 others orbiting the gas giant.
Cassini first observed Daphnis on 1 May 2005. Since then, the spacecraft has been Saturn’s most popular (and only) visitor, snapping photos of geysers and flowing liquid methane. In November, Cassini began one of its final acts — the ring grazing phase — which is yielding up-close-and-personal shots of Saturn’s moons and rings.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. In September 2017, Cassini will end its 20-year mission by thrusting itself into Saturn’s atmosphere. At least we can expect more cool photos before then.