Up close with Helene

Cassini image of Helene

Saturn's icy moon Helene, seen by the Cassini spacecraft from a distance of 6,968 kilometres. Detail can be seen down to 42 metres per pixel.

NASA’s CASSINI SPACECRAFT has successfully completed its second-closest encounter with Saturn’s icy satellite Helene, beaming down raw images of the small moon.

At closest approach, on June 18, Cassini flew within 6,968 kilometres of Helene’s surface. It was the second closest approach to Helene of the entire mission.

Cassini passed from Helene’s night side to the moon’s sunlit side. It also captured images of the Saturn-facing side of the moon in sunlight, a region that was only illuminated by sunlight reflected off Saturn the last time Cassini was close, in March 2010.

The data from this flyby will enable scientists to finish creating a global map of Helene, so they can better understand the history of impacts to the moon and gully-like features seen on previous flybys.

Helene is potato shaped, with dimensions of 36 x 32 x 30 kilometres. It was discovered in 1980 by astronomers at the Pic du Midi Observatory in France.

The closest Helene encounter of the mission took place on March 10, 2010, when Cassini flew within 1,820 kilometres of the moon.

Cassini image of Helene

Another Cassini view of Helene, captured on June 18, 2011.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.

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