Cassini spacecraft beams back stunning images of Saturn's moon Rhea
This image was taken on March 10, 2013, and received on Earth March 10, 2013 by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The camera was pointing toward Rhea at approximately 174,181 miles (280,317 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Published Thursday, March 14, 2013 1:32PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 14, 2013 2:12PM EDT
Newly released images of Saturn's moon show the satellite body bears the scars of countless collisions with space rocks that have left its surface battered and beaten.
The stunningly detailed black and white photos of the moon Rhea were beamed back by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which passed within 1,000 kilometres of the moon's surface on March 9.
The images of the moon's icy surface show countless craters caused by collisions with space rocks, as well as a curving, narrow fracture which, viewed from the photos, resembles a road or wall.
NASA described the feature as "a block of ground lower than its surroundings and bordered by cliffs on either side."
"This feature looks remarkably recent, cutting most of the craters it crosses, with only a few small craters superimposed," NASA said on its website.
Cassini's main objective was to measure the satellite's gravitational field. Twelve images were captured while Cassini was at its closest approach point, an altitude of 997 kilometres.
Additional images were captured from further out, around 269,000 kilometres, as Cassini was outbound.
The ship also analyzed dust particles in the region in hopes of finding "dusty debris flying off the surface from tiny meteoroid bombardments," which will help scientists determine how often the system is targeted by space rocks.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.