Distant Moons of Saturn Look Neighborly In New Cassini Image

Saturn's moons Tethys and Hyperion
Saturn's moons Tethys (right) and Hyperion (left) look like cosmic neighbors in this new photo from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. However, in reality, the two bodies are separated by thousands of miles. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Two of Saturn's moons, Tethys and Hyperion, appear remarkably close in a new image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, despite their actual distance from one another. 

The two moons were 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from one another when the image was taken Aug. 15. Tethys, the larger body at left in the image, and Hyperion are thought to be composed almost entirely of water ice, based on their density. 

Tethys is the fifth largest of Saturn's 62 known moons, at 660 miles (1,062 km) across. Visible light reflects off its pockmarked surface in this new Cassini image. [Photos: The Rings and Moons of Saturn in Pictures]

Like many of Saturn's moons, Tethys's surface bears large impact craters and deep crevasses. One such feature is Ithaca Chasma, which cuts 3 miles (5 km) deep in some locations and extends about three-quarters of the way around the moon. 

Like Tethys, Hyperion has suffered numerous impacts that left deep dents, but porous features give the moon a more sponge-like appearance. 

Hyperion stands out among Saturn's moons for its potato-like shape. In fact, Hyperion, which measures 170 miles (270 km) across, is considered one of the largest known irregularly shaped moons in the solar system.

The new Cassini image was taken about 750,000 miles (1.2 million km) from Tethys and about 1.7 million miles (2.7 million km) from Hyperion, NASA said in a statement debuting the photo.  

The Cassini spacecraft entered Saturn's orbit in 2004 and is set to end its mission in September 2017. 

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.