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New photos show Saturn’s ‘flying saucer’ moon in all its glory

Published Apr 14th, 2017 7:12PM EDT
saturn moons

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Just yesterday, NASA announced some incredibly amazing news about the Saturn moon called Enceladus, teasing the possibility that the frozen world could actually support life right now. But Saturn has many moons, and NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been taking some amazing photos of many of them. One of those other moons is called Atlas, and it’s a total weirdo.

These new images are the closest photos ever taken of Atlas, with Cassini snapping them at a distance of roughly 7,000 miles. The photos were published in their raw form by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and provide the best look yet at one of Saturn’s most peculiar neighbors.

As moons go, Atlas is pretty tiny. It’s only about 19 miles across, which is just a fraction of our own moon’s 2,159 mile diameter. It has a distinctly lumpy, uneven appearance and a flat profile. NASA likes to say it’s shaped like a flying saucer, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment. Its small size has likely helped it retain its odd form, given than gravity hasn’t had much of a chance to help round off its strange edges.

Atlas hangs out at the very outer edge of Saturn’s main rings, but it’s far from the outermost of Saturn’s moons. With a total of over 50 named moons, 62 moons with confirmed orbits, and dozens upon dozens of “moonlets” bouncing around within its complex ring structure, there’s no shortage of sights to see around Saturn, but Atlas is definitely one of the weirdest.

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