Saturn's rings slice a moon in two in lovely optical illusion

The Cassini spacecraft gets a perfect view of Saturn's moon Dione with the planet's rings slicing through the center.

Saturn's rings are channeling exacting chef Gordon Ramsay in a fresh image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Cassini looked out toward the moon Dione and snapped a photo that shows the rings cutting a neat line through the crater-packed satellite.

The photo makes it look like the two sides of Dione could just pop right open like a lady sawn in half by a celestial magician. NASA released the image on Tuesday.

Cassini was located about 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) from Dione at the time the serendipitous shot was snapped in late December. The spacecraft originally launched back in 1997 on a mission to study Saturn and its moons.


Dione poses for a stunning Cassini shot.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA describes the rings as "razor thin." In terms of the vastness of space, they are. According to the space agency, the rings range from around 30 to 300 feet (about 9 to 91 meters) thick. That means the thinnest rings aren't even as thick as a double-decker London bus is long.

Saturn's rings might look like giant washers in space, but they're mainly made up of ice with some rocky material mixed in. The planet's moons sometimes act like little wrecking balls, carving out slices from the rings.

Space around Saturn is almost as busy as an international airport. There are more than 60 moons in orbit around the ringed planet. Dione is not a very big moon, clocking in at just 698 miles (1,123 kilometers) in diameter. Compare that with Earth's moon at about 2,159 miles (3,475 kilometers) and you'll be even more impressed by Cassini's dead-on photography skills.

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