The Cassini spacecraft's close flyby of Epimetheus in December 2007 returned detailed images of the moon's south polar region.
The view shows what might be the remains of a large impact crater covering most of this face, and which could be responsible for the somewhat flattened shape of the southern part of Epimetheus (116 kilometers, or 72 miles across) seen previously at much lower resolution.
The image also shows two terrain types: darker, smoother areas, and brighter, slightly more yellowish, fractured terrain. One interpretation of this image is that the darker material evidently moves down slopes, and probably has a lower ice content than the brighter material, which appears more like "bedrock." Nonetheless, materials in both terrains are likely to be rich in water ice.
The images that were used to create this enhanced color view were taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 3, 2007. The views were obtained at a distance of approximately 37,400 kilometers (23,000 miles) from Epimetheus and at a Sun-Epimetheus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 65 degrees. Image scale is 224 meters (735 feet) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute