Looking like an extraterrestrial pumice stone and moving like a bumbling drunken uncle, Hyperion posed for photos on Thursday as the Cassini spacecraft zoomed by for the second closest pass in its history.
Hyperion is one of Saturn’s 62 known moons, but it is one of its more unusual satellites. The moon is highly irregularly shaped – in the solar system only Neptune’s moon Proteus is more irregular – and tumbles along its orbit, making it difficult for astronomers to predict what terrain Cassini would capture on its flyby.
The close encounter mapped new territory and could provide improved colour information to determine Hyperion’s composition. The new snaps from about 25,000 kilometres away also offer a better glimpse of the way shadows and light play off the surface under different conditions offering clues into its unusually porous, bath sponge-like texture.