Cassini spies shy moon nestled among Saturn's rings

Like a couple of Saturn's other small ring moons, Atlas and Pan, Daphnis appears to have a narrow ridge around its equator and a fairly smooth mantle of material on its surface-likely an accumulation of fine particles from the rings.

The moon has a diameter of around 8km (5 miles) and it orbits within 42 km (26 mile) wide off Keeler Gap's A ring- the outermost of the Saturn's bright rings.

An image of Daphnis moon captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.

As you can see, the peaks underneath Daphnis are the waves the moon's gravity creates on the rings as mosey's along. Cassini was able to observe the vertical structures in 2009, around the time of Saturn's equinox.

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As per reports, a faint, narrow tendril of ring material follows just behind Daphnis (to its left).

Daphnis appears to have an ovular shape. But it also has some craters and ridges. This could be a result of the motion of the fine ring particles, which escalate into the gap while Daphni's previous proximate approach that edge while orbiting.

It's the closest look at Daphnis we've ever had-and I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty cute. This line comes from Daphnis drawing a packet of material from the ring, and now the material is spreading out.

In particular, a grainy texture is seen in several wide lanes which hints at structures where particles are clumping together.

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Cassini has been in space for the past two decades, starting in 1997. In addition to the horizontal waves visible in this new image, another shot taken in 2009 shows vertical ones as well.

It was first seen in images taken by Cassini in May 2005, as the spacecraft began its climb to higher inclinations in orbit around Saturn.

The first part of Cassini's "endgame" is on with its grazing of the outer rings of Saturn since November 30. And in September, we'll say goodbye to the spacecraft as it plunges headfirst into Saturn's atmosphere - where it will be irretrievably consumed, but not before collecting and transmitting as much data as it can.

NASA's Cassini mission was launched in 2004 and it captured some fantastic pictures of the Saturnian system.

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Despite capturing unseen material from Saturn, Cassini's days are numbered.


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