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Sci-Tech

NASA puts Saturn's weirdest moons into perspective

A ravioli, a ring-carver and a UFO walk into a photo. A NASA montage shows off the strangeness of three very different Saturn moons.

Atlas, Daphnis and Pan are shown to scale with each other.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

With so many odd-shaped moons, it can feel like Saturn's weird satellites all kind of blur together. NASA released a montage on Wednesday that helps to put three of those moons into perspective by highlighting the differences in their sizes and shapes. 

The pictures of the moons -- Atlas, Daphnis and Pan -- all come from the Cassini spacecraft and were taken on different dates this year. The combined image shows the moons to scale, so you can see how Atlas and Pan are roughly the same size, while Daphnis nearly disappears at just 5 miles (8 kilometers) across. 

Observers have noted that Atlas looks a lot like a classic UFO and Pan resembles a celestial ravioli. With a little imagination, Daphnis looks like a wrinkled bean. 

Tiny Daphnis has an interesting relationship with Saturn's rings. Its gravitational influence creates wave-like formations at the edge of the dark-ring gap where it orbits. Pan is also busy, carving out what's known as the Encke Gap, a dark path within the rings. Atlas orbits just outside of Saturn's bright A ring, the first ring discovered by astronomers on Earth.

Cassini, which launched in 1997, is currently in the middle of the grand finale phase of its mission. It will end its life with a scheduled plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in September.