Saturn's 'Ice Queen' Moon Helene Shimmers in New Photo
NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped this photo of Saturn's icy moon Helene on June 18, 2011. At closest approach, Cassini flew within 4,330 miles (6,968 kilometers) of Helene's surface.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Saturn's small moon Helene shines like a regal ice queen in a dazzling new photo from NASA's Cassini spacecraft .
Cassini photographed the icy Helene on June 18 during a close flyby of the frigid world. At one point, Cassini zoomed to within 4,330 miles (6,968 kilometers) of Helene — the second-closest approach to the moon of the entire mission, researchers said.
Helene is an irregularly shaped world 22 miles (35 kilometers) wide. It orbits Saturn at an average distance of about 234,500 miles (377,000 km), roughly the same distance that separates Earth from our own moon. NASA officials called the moon Saturn's "ice queen" when releasing the new photo. [More Saturn moon and ring photos]
The moon was discovered on March 1, 1980 and is named after the mythical granddaughter of Kronos, the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Saturn, according to a NASA description. It is one of at least 62 moons known to orbit Saturn, though only 53 of these satellites have formal names.
Cassini launched in 1996 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. The mission also carried the European Space Agency's Huygens lander, which touched down on Saturn's moon Titan soon after Cassini arrived in orbit around the ringed planet.
Cassini completed its primary mission to explore Saturn, its rings and moons in 2008. Since then, the mission has been extended twice, most recently to 2017.
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