The moons of Saturn

The moons of Saturn are numerous and diverse, ranging from tiny moonlets less than 1 kilometre across, to the enormous Titan, which is larger than the planet Mercury. Saturn has 62 moons with confirmed orbits, fifty-three of which have names, and only thirteen of which have diameters larger than 50 kilometres.

This beautiful new image, captured on June 16 by NASA’s Cassini orbiter, highlights the stark differences between Saturn’s two largest moons.

Rhea, the grey rock in the foreground, is a cratered, icy world about 1,500 kilometres (950 miles) wide. By contrast, Titan, the hazy yellow behemoth in the background, is Saturn’s largest moon at 5,150 kilometres (3,200 miles) across.

Despite their differences in size and composition, both have the potential to host complex chemistry, and even the precursors for life. Rhea has a tenuous, oxygen-rich atmosphere created by charged particles from Saturn’s magnetic field striking and splitting apart water molecules. Titan has lakes and rivers of liquid methane and ethane, a thick hydrocarbon atmosphere, and may have a subsurface ocean, making it one of the best hopes for extraterrestrial life in the solar system. Learn more here.

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