Moon In Perspective


Mimas orbits over Saturn’s night side in this January image from Cassini. Two remarkable things …First is the size of Saturn’s moons in relation to the planet. Mimas is not a giant like our own moon, which ranks number six in the solar system. Mimas is about as wide as the state of Ohio–one-eighth our moon’s diameter. Saturn is about nine times as wide as the earth. Even Titan is dwarfed by Saturn, and the other moons are pretty insignifcant in size.

Below is a simulated view of Mimas as seen from Saturn. That little fingernail clipping at center is Mimas. It’s about a fist away from either the left or right edge of the view below. This moon appears about as big as one of the eyes in the “man in the moon” does from your backyard.

Second, note the degree of shine on Saturn’s night side. That’s reflected light from the rings. And though scientists speculate that if all the ring material were put together, the resulting “moon” would be about the size of Mimas. Yet if we were hovering above Saturn cloudtops in a zeppelin at night, the arch of the ring in the sky would be far more glorious than a full moon or rainbow. Don Dixon painted this daytime scene of the rings from Saturn. The night view would be much better.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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