NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been cruising around Saturn for 13 years, periodically sending pictures of the enormous planet and its many moons back to Earth. On Thursday, NASA published its latest snapshots and they’re the clearest photos yet of Saturn’s tiny moon Pan, which orbits the planet in a gap of its A ring.
Captured at a distance of about 15,000 miles, NASA says these are the “closest images ever taken of Pan.” Previous shots of the moon had drawn comparisons to a walnut, but NASA is suggesting this one is more ravioli-like, which seems about right. But as Cassini imaging chief Carolyn Porco tweets, other foods have been suggested too.
Pan is about 22 miles in diameter and that bulge at its equator is the moon’s most notable feature. It formed over time as Pan accumulated material from the rings it passes through to form the Encke Gap.
Launched in 1997, Cassini reached Saturn in 2004. Later this year, after more than 2 billion miles logged, it will run out of fuel. In a mission dubbed “Grand Finale,” NASA will send Cassini to its demise in Saturn’s atmosphere to avoid the possibility of crashing into one of the planet’s potentially habitable moons.