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Saturn's icy moons: From Voyager to Cassini (pictures)

NASA unveiled a set of fascinating color maps of some of Saturn's biggest icy moons, improving on a previous set of images captured by the Voyager spacecrafts decades ago.

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Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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1 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Mimas seen by Voyager (before)

One of the objectives of NASA's Cassini mission is to produce global maps of Saturn's six major icy moons. With the release of a set of new color maps, NASA has announced that this objective has been almost completely fulfilled. It's an interesting exercise to compare the before and after maps of Saturn's moons that show the differences in detail between Voyager in the 1980s and Cassini now. This particular image shows what Voyager saw of the moon Mimas. Note the fuzziness and lack of detail.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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2 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Mimas seen by Cassini (after)

Cassini got a much better look at Saturn's moon Mimas than the Voyager mission did back in the early 1980s. The missing areas are filled in, craters and pockmarks can be seen in detail. This is one of a set of new Saturn moon maps produced by Paul Schenk, a participating scientist with the Cassini imaging team.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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3 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Enceladus seen by Voyager (before)

NASA's Voyager mission picked up this imagery of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus in the early 1980s. Large parts of the map are missing, an issue that was later corrected by the Cassini mission during 10 years of study around Saturn.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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4 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Enceladus seen by Cassini (after)

Enceladus is one of half a dozen major icy moons around Saturn. This color-enhanced map was created using data collected by NASA's Cassini mission. It shows great detail, including the bluish fracture lines along the bottom of the map. It fills in a lot of detail missing from data collected by the earlier Voyager mission.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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5 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Tethys seen by Voyager (before)

This map of Tethys put together from data collected by the Voyager mission in the early 1980s is missing large chunks of surface area, while other parts are blurry. NASA's more recent Cassini mission gathered fresh data to help create a new set of color maps.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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6 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Tethys as seen by Cassini (after)

Cassini improved greatly on Voyager's early maps of Saturn's major icy moons. This image of Tethys is color-enhanced to show greater detail of the moon's surface. It shows a difference in color and brightness between the moon's hemispheres.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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7 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Dione as seen by Voyager (before)

The Voyager mission, which visited Saturn in the early 1980s, picked up some imagery of the planet's major icy moons, but a lot of detail was lacking. This image shows Dione as seen by Voyager. Scientists have waited a long time for better maps of the moons, which Cassini has now delivered.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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8 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Dione seen by Cassini (after)

This color map of Saturn's icy moon Dione was created using the extensive data captured by NASA's Cassini mission. It goes into much greater detail than Voyager was able to provide when it visited Saturn in the early 1980s. Notice the obvious difference in color between Dione's hemispheres, a feature that was hard to detect in the Voyager images.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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9 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Rhea seen by Voyager (before)

Large parts of this black-and-white map of Saturn's moon Rhea are blurred out or missing. This map was created using data from NASA's Voyager mission, which visited Saturn around 30 years ago. Researchers now have access to improved maps thanks to the Cassini mission and the detailed information and images it has sent back.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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10 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Rhea seen by Cassini (after)

NASA's Cassini mission has been studying Saturn and its surrounding satellites for about a decade. The data it collected on the planet's major icy moons has been turned into a series of new color-enhanced maps showing fascinating new details of the satellites' surfaces. This map shows the moon Rhea and its color variations.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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11 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Iapetus seen by Voyager (before)

Saturn's icy moon Iapetus as seen by NASA's 1980s Voyager mission left a lot to the imagination. The more recent Cassini mission data has given researchers a lot more information to work with. This original Voyager map shows only vague dark areas.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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12 of 12 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Iapetus seen by Cassini (after)

NASA's Cassini mission helped researchers generate a new set of color maps of Saturn's major icy moons. This map of Iapetus is a huge improvement on the previous map created from data from the 1980s Voyager mission. Cassini continues to send back fascinating images of Saturn and its surrounding satellites.

Related article: Tour Saturn's icy moons with new NASA color maps


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