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.

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Identifies 101 Icy Geysers on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

This graphic shows a 3-D model of 98 geysers whose source locations and tilts were found in a Cassini imaging survey of Enceladus' south polar terrain by the method of triangulation.
This graphic shows a 3-D model of 98 geysers whose source locations and tilts were found in a Cassini imaging survey of Enceladus’ south polar terrain by the method of triangulation.

Analysis of Cassini data identifies 101 distinct icy geysers erupting on surface of Enceladus

Space news – Enceladus, Saturn (Sept 22, 2014) –

Planetary space scientists looking at information obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft of the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus over a seven-year study have viewed 101 watery-geysers on the surface. This suggests to scientists it’s possible for liquid from the underground sea believed to be under the moon’s icy exterior to reach the surface and erupt as a spray of small, icy particles.

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice and vapor from many locations along the famed
Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice and vapor from many locations along the famed “tiger stripes” near the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft first saw possible geysers of water vapor erupting from the icy surface of Enceladus almost a decade ago. At this time, tiger stripe fractures could be seen on the surface, and scientists suspected they might have something to do with the geysers they could see. It took until now to confirm, through the seven-year study just completed, the 101 geysers are in fact erupting from the tiger stripe fractures. They also discovered individual geysers originate from small hot spots seen in images collected using Cassini’s temperature-sensing instruments in 2010.

This Cassini narrow-angle camera image -- one of those acquired in the survey conducted by the Cassini imaging science team of the geyser basin at the south pole of Enceladus -- was taken as Cassini was looking across the moon's south pole.
This Cassini narrow-angle camera image — one of those acquired in the survey conducted by the Cassini imaging science team of the geyser basin at the south pole of Enceladus — was taken as Cassini was looking across the moon’s south pole.

“Once we had these results in hand we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa,” said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the first paper. “It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon but have much deeper roots.”

Next for scientists

Taking a closer look at data concerning the gravity field around Enceladus, planetary space scientists concluded the only plausible source of the liquid erupting from the geysers is the sea beneath the icy exterior of the moon. Computer simulations also show narrow passages to the inner sea could stay open completely to the surface if filled with liquid water.

Additional information on NASA’s Cassini space mission can be found here.

Links to additional information, images and animations can be found here.

Read about signs of plate tectonics on Europa

Discover things about Einstein’s spacetime

Learn about the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the universe