Cassini Spies Pandora Hovering Over Titan

What will we find when we open it up to look inside?

In this Cassini image taken on July 2, 2015 little moon Pandora appears to hover behind bigger brother Titan, but is actually almost three times closer at 436,000 miles (698,000 kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
In this Cassini image taken on July 2, 2015 little moon Pandora appears to hover behind bigger brother Titan, but is actually almost three times closer at 436,000 miles (698,000 kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Space news ( October 30, 2015) –

First viewed during an examination of Voyager 1 images of Saturn taken in 1980, Titan’s little moon Pandora is only 50 miles (81 kilometers) across in this green light image taken at a distance of about 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers). 

Pandora has lots of craters, indicating she’s still growing in size, and her final size and shape has yet to be determined. Very irregularly shaped presently, Pandora’s craters are covered with space debris from recent collisions on geological time scales. One day, if she collects enough debris, planetary scientist think Pandora could start to look more spherical in shape. 

Detail of Voyager 2 image showing Saturn's moon Pandora, taken 6 hours before Voyager's closest approach to Saturn. Pandora is irregularly shaped, 110 x 90 x 60 km, and bright, with visible albedo of 0.9. The satellite orbits with a semi-major axis of 142,000 km and acts as the outer shepherding satellite (Prometheus is the inner) of Saturn's F-ring. North is approximately up and Pandora is about 70 km across in the image. (Voyager 2, FDS 43998.15) Image credit NASA
Detail of Voyager 2 image showing Saturn’s moon Pandora, taken 6 hours before Voyager’s closest approach to Saturn. Pandora is irregularly shaped, 110 x 90 x 60 km, and bright, with visible albedo of 0.9. The satellite orbits with a semi-major axis of 142,000 km and acts as the outer shepherding satellite (Prometheus is the inner) of Saturn’s F-ring. North is approximately up and Pandora is about 70 km across in the image. (Voyager 2, FDS 43998.15)
Image credit NASA

The fourth of Saturn’s known moons, Pandora orbits at a distance of about 141,700 km from her parent planet, and is the outer shepherd moon of the F ring. Planetary scientists think its elongated shape and low density could mean it was formed when the gravity of a dense core gathered nearby ring particles onto itself. 

Mimas and Pandora both orbit Saturn, but planetary scientists believe they formed using different processes. In this Cassini image taken on July 26, 2015, Mimas is 904,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from the spacecraft and Pandora is 485,000 miles (781,000 kilometers). Image credit NASA
Mimas and Pandora both orbit Saturn, but planetary scientists believe they formed using different processes. In this Cassini image taken on July 26, 2015, Mimas is 904,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from the spacecraft and Pandora is 485,000 miles (781,000 kilometers). Image credit NASA

Named after the woman bestowed upon mankind by Zeus as a punishment for using Prometheus’ gift of fire, Titan’s little moon Pandora probably doesn’t contain all the ills plaguing humankind. Teams of scientists proposing to government space agencies or private concerns a mission to open it up and take a look inside might get a few laughs.

After all, all myths have a beginning somewhere in time, and nothing is impossible, in this universe, if you wait long enough for it to happen. 

It wouldn’t be a surprise if one day we drifted by and took a better look. 

Just in case someone or something left us a gift!

You can learn more about Pandora here.

Discover NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars here.

Learn about the things Cassini discovered about Saturn and its moons here.

Read about Voyager 1 here.

Read about planetary scientists announcement they have proof positive of an ocean of liquid water beneath the icy shell of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Learn more about Active Galactic Nuclei and relativistic jets erupting from them.

Learn about planets astronomers have found in star systems containing four suns.

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