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Sci-Tech

Saturn's moon Dione gets a craggy NASA close-up

NASA's Cassini spacecraft zooms in on the fractured surface of Dione, one of Saturn's many intriguing moons, and delivers a crater-packed close-up.

Dione
Saturn's moon Dione smiles for the camera. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn is an obvious standout in our solar system. Its showy rings set it apart from the other planets and make it look like it's dressed to the nines with cosmic jewelry. The gems in its fashion decor include over 50 known moons. One of these is Dione, the subject of an intriguing close-up image taken by NASA spacecraft Cassini.

Dione is a small moon, just 698 miles in diameter. It takes 2.7 days to orbit Saturn. Dione's face is heavily marked with craters and fractured areas. Cassini's view shows us an alien world with a dramatic landscape. The craters show up in sharp relief. It looks both inhospitable and fascinating, like a rougher version of our own moon.

The white line seen near the top of the image is Saturn's rings in the distance. Cassini zipped up close to Dione, coming within just 321 miles of its surface, on June 16. This was the spacecraft's fourth flyby of the icy moon. A final, even closer flyby is scheduled for August 17. In December 2011, Cassini made a daring flyby that brought it within just 60 miles of the moon.

The Cassini Mission is focused on learning more about Saturn and its many moons. The spacecraft launched in 1997 and reached Saturn in 2004. It has been studying the fascinating planet and its many natural satellites ever since.