Germany: Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have compiled an atlas of Saturn’s second largest moon, Rhea. The atlas has been published by NASA.
The atlas includes a number of high-resolution images and a 3D view of fractures on the icy world acquired by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn for six and a half years. The data was obtained during two fly-bys in September 2009 and March 2010, from distances as close as 100 kilometres. The atlas comprises the most detailed images of Rhea to date and provides an insight into the geological development and surface composition of the moon.
Of particular interest are a number of long, usually linear structures over 100 kilometres long, that are winding in some places. The origin of these thin lines was a mystery for a long time. “The high-resolution image data from Cassini was the first to reveal that the bright lines are actually tectonic in origin, meaning that they are fractures in the ice crust, created during sudden releases of crustal stress,” explained Roland Wagner from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research (Institut für Planetenforschung; IPF).
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, manages Cassini for NASA. The Imaging Science Subsystem team consists of scientists from the US, UK, France and Germany.