NASA has released a new high-quality image of Saturn's moon Pandora taken by the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting the planet system.
According to the space agency, the photo was captured by the orbital space probe earlier in December when it was about 25,000 miles (approx. 40,000 kilometers) away from Pandora. This was the closest flyby Cassini has made of Saturn's moon.
The new image also offers one of the best views of Pandora, having been taken using the highest resolution possible for the spacecraft instruments.
NASA said Cassini was making its third grazing pass near the outer edges of Saturn's primary rings on Dec. 18 when it was able to take a snapshot of the potato-shaped moon.
Saturn's Moon Pandora
Pandora is one of the inner satellites currently orbiting the Saturn system. Researchers discovered the moon while examining photos captured by the Voyager 1 space probe in 1980.
While it was first given the designation of S/1980 S 26, the moon soon came to be known as Pandora in 1985. The name was taken from the Greek mythological character who was the first woman ever created by the gods and who also unwittingly unleashed many forms of evil upon humanity.
Pandora is considered a relatively small moon, having a mean radius of about 25.3 miles (40.7 kilometers). By comparison, the Earth's moon has a mean radius of about 1,079 miles (1,737.1 kilometers).
Pandora orbits Saturn at a distance of about 88,000 miles (142,000 km), which places it near the massive planet's slender F ring. This means that it takes about 15.1 hours for this moon to complete an orbit around its host planet.
The latest Cassini photograph provides scientists with the highest-quality view of Pandora. NASA said the scale of the image is at 787 feet (240 meters) per pixel.
Since it was launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft has yielded some of the best images not only of Saturn but its orbiting moons as well. These high-quality photos have allowed scientists to find out more about the planet system over the years.
Data from Cassini is helping uncover the mysteries behind the geysers on Enceladus, the rugged, icy surface of Dione, the Kraken Mare Sea on Titan, the yin-and-yang like features of Iapetus, and Pandora's fellow "potato" moon Prometheus.
NASA hopes that during the spacecraft's grand finale tour of Saturn, it will be able to discover more information on the planet, its inner satellites and its primary rings.