New Delhi: The US space agency NASA has released a beautiful image of Saturn's icy moon, Mimas dwarfed by the planet's enormous rings.
The image was taken on July 21, 2016 in red light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera.
The view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 6 degrees above the ring plane and was obtained at a distance of approximately 564,000 miles (907,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 31 degrees.
According to NASA, as Mimas (near lower left) appears tiny by comparison, it might seem that the rings would be far more massive, but this is not the case. Scientists think the rings are no more than a few times as massive as Mimas, or perhaps just a fraction of Mimas' mass. Cassini is expected to determine the mass of Saturn's rings to within just a few hundredths of Mimas' mass as the mission winds down by tracking radio signals from the spacecraft as it flies close to the rings.
The rings, which are made of small, icy particles spread over a vast area, are extremely thin and generally no thicker than the height of a house. Thus the rings contain a surprisingly small amount of material. Mimas is 246 miles (396 kilometers) wide.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency.