Cassini Snaps Best-Ever Photos of Saturn’s Moon Atlas

Just five weeks after beaming home images of a giant space ravioli, NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has shown us a “UFO.”

Well, sort of. On Tuesday (April 12), Cassini snapped the best-ever photos of Saturn’s bizarre moon Atlas, whose humped middle and broad equatorial ridge make it look like a flying saucer. (The “ravioli” moon, by the way, is the Saturn satellite Pan, although some people think it looks more like an empanada.)

Cassini took the new photos during a flyby that brought the probe within just 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) of Atlas at closest approach.

“These images are the closest ever taken of Atlas and will help to characterize its shape and geology,” NASA officials wrote in a description of the images Thursday (April 14). “Atlas (19 miles, or 30 kilometers across) orbits Saturn just outside the A ring — the outermost of the planet’s bright, main rings.”

During its nearly 13 years in the Saturn system, Cassini has revealed just how weird, wonderful and varied the ringed planet’s bevy of 60-plus moons is. For example, the probe has captured amazing images of Iapetus, which looks like a walnut, and Mimas, which is a dead ringer for the Death Star from the “Star Wars” films.

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SOURCE:, Mike Wall