On Monday (12 December), NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its closest flyby yet of Saturn's moon Dione… and has sent back these remarkable images to prove it. In the images, the surface of Dione can be seen clearly, while a portion of Saturn's rings and a couple of the planet's other moons are also visible.


This image shows Dione as seen from 122,864km (76,344 miles) away

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The Dione encounter was designed to make use of Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer and radio science subsystem. But the imaging team also managed to capture the ridge on Dione's surface, Janiculum Dorsa, which is always pointed in the direction of the moon's orbit. More detailed images of Janiculum Dorsa are expected from Cassini in May 2012.


This picture, taken 112,636km (69,989 miles) above the surface, shows two of Saturn's other moons, Epimetheus and Pandora

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California built the spacecraft and imaging equipment, while the imaging operations team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boiulder, Colorado.

Since sending back these images, Cassini has moved on to its next destination – Titan, where it will be making a flyby within 3,600km (2,200 miles) today.

For more information on Cassini, visit NASA's own Cassini website