See Saturn's funky 'potato' moon Prometheus up close

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captures a lovely glamour shot of Saturn's small, irregular moon Prometheus.

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
2 min read

Not all moons are photogenic round objects like Earth's lunar buddy with its charming "man in the moon" face. Some moons are ugly ducklings. Saturn has more than 60 moons, ranging from the icy white satellite of Enceladus to the fascinating hulk of Titan. And then there's Prometheus, an awkward-looking creature that lives around Saturn's F ring.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft got a lovely close-up view of Prometheus during a flyby on December 6. The space agency released the resulting image on Tuesday, calling it "one of Cassini's highest-resolution views of Prometheus."

The image shows both Prometheus and Saturn's F ring as a faint line across the top of the picture.


Prometheus shows off its cratered surface.

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

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The moon has an oblong shape and measures just 53 miles (86 kilometers) across. Cassini captured the image from a distance of about 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometers). The moon's pockmarked surface and odd shape are on full display, making it look more like something the Millennium Falcon would encounter while hiding in an asteroid field.

NASA refers to Prometheus as being "potato-shaped," which is pretty accurate, although not very flattering. The moon has a pretty active life out there in space. It has been known to slice through Saturn's F ring, leaving visible cuts in the icy particles that make up the ring. The rings are labeled alphabetically based on the order of discovery. The F ring is narrow and is found about 87,000 miles from the center of Saturn.

Cassini launched in 1997 and arrived to study Saturn and its satellites in 2004. The spacecraft has had a busy time viewing the moons around the ringed planet. In 2015 alone, it spotted a "snowman" on Enceladus, captured a picturesque photo of three crescent moons and zoomed in on the cratered surface of Dione. This likely won't be the last Cassini image we see of Prometheus, but it may well stand as one of the best.