Sci-Tech

Saturn's adorable UFO-shaped moon, Atlas, gets a close-up

Can a moon be cute? If you're a tiny Saturn moon that resembles a flying saucer, the answer is "Yes!"

Sorry, folks, this isn't an actual UFO.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn's minuscule moon Atlas is one of the smallest among the ringed planet's massive collection that includes dozens of satellites. NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped some new images of Atlas on Wednesday from a distance of just 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) away, giving us our closest look at the goofy little moon.

Atlas is just 19 miles (30 kilometers) across. Compare that to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, which is 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) across. Atlas has a distinctive central bulge, leading NASA to give it the "flying-saucer" moon nickname.

Atlas has made cameo appearances in Cassini pictures before, where it can be seen hiding in Saturn's rings, dwarfed by its much larger brethren. Atlas bears a passing resemblance to another itsy-bitsy moon named Pan. Pan, however, looks more like a ravioli than a UFO.

Cassini isn't long for this solar system. The NASA craft, which originally launched in 1997, is scheduled to end its mission later this year when it plunges into Saturn's atmosphere.