Following are pictures sent back by Cassini described by scientists as “stunning raw images of fractured terrain and craters big and small on Dione, a moon that had only been visited once before by Cassini.”

Saturn’s moon Tethys with its prominent Odysseus Crater silently slips behind Saturn’s largest moon Titan and then emerges on the other side.

In Feburary, the U.S. space agency NASA said it would extend the Cassini-Huygens mission, a cooperative project of NASA and the Europe and Italy on Saturn and its planets exploration, to at least 2017.

Cassini was launched in October 1997 with the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe. The spacecraft arrived at Saturn in 2004. The probe was equipped with six instruments to study Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

The project was scheduled to end in 2008, but then the mission received a 27-month extension to September 2010.

Scientists believed that the second extension would enable researchers to study seasonal and other long-term weather changes on the planet and its moons, as well as continue observations of Saturn’s rings and the magnetic bubble around the planet known as the magnetosphere.


This excellent grouping of three moons –Dione, Tethys and Pandora– near the rings provides a sampling of the diversity of worlds that exists in Saturn’s realm.