Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



Move Over Caravaggio:  Cassini’s Light and Dark Moons

August 18, 2010
Source: NASA/JPL

This image of Penelope crater on Saturn’s moon Tethys was obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on August 14, 2010. Credit:  NASA/JPL.NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has returned saturnian moon images from its most recent flyby, revealing light and dark contrasts worthy of chiaroscuro painters like Caravaggio.

The flyby on August 13 targeted the geyser moon Enceladus, but also brought Cassini close to two other moons — Tethys and Dione.

The raw images include the best ones to date of Penelope crater on the icy moon Tethys . Penelope crater, which is 150 kilometers (90 miles) wide, is the second-largest crater on Tethys.

Cassini was also able to obtain a portrait of Enceladus over the bright arc of Saturn’s atmosphere and a moody still life of one of the “tiger stripe” fissures — Damascus Sulcus — at the Enceladus south polar region on the cusp of darkness. “Tiger stripe” is the nickname for the fissures spewing water vapor and organic particles out into space. Damascus Sulcus was also the subject of a heat scan by Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer. Scientists are still analyzing the results.

More raw images from the Enceladus flyby, dubbed “E11,” are available at

Cassini Equinox Mission:  Raw Images

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit

Cassini:  Unlocking Saturn’s Secrets


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Last updated August 18, 2010