This high-resolution Cassini mosaic shows that Hyperion truly has a surface different from any other in the Saturn system.
The mosaic is composed of five clear filter images taken during Cassini's close flyby of Hyperion (266 kilometers, 165 miles across) on September 26, 2005, during which the spacecraft passed approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles) above the moon's surface.
Scientists are extremely curious to learn what the dark material is that fills many craters on this oddball moon. Features within the dark terrain, including a 200-meter (650-foot) wide impact site surrounded by rays to the right of center and numerous bright-rimmed craters, indicate that the dark material may only be a thin veneer overlying brighter material beneath.
Scientists will also be examining Cassini's sharp views to try and determine whether there have been multiple episodes of landslides on Hyperion. Such "downslope" movement is evident in the filling of craters with debris and the near elimination of many craters along the steeper slopes. Answers to these questions may help solve the mystery of why this object has evolved different surface forms from other moons of Saturn.
The images comprising this mosaic were taken with the narrow angle camera from distances ranging from approximately 8,500 kilometers (5,300 miles) to 4,600 kilometers (2,900 miles) from Hyperion. Image scale is 26 meters (85 feet) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.