Pan, the Space Ravioli

Seriously, that’s what Saturn’s moon Pan looks 

Cassini has just made the closest ever pass to Pan, one of Saturn’s shepherd moons.  It orbits within (and basically creates) the Encke Gap in Saturn’s rings.  The wide flat band of material around its equator is material accreted from the rings themselves.  The best part, though, is that the Cassini imaging team at JPL put together this neat animated GIF collecting all of the raw images from this particular imaging sequence, and its glorious:

 

It’s bittersweet, knowing that these close orbits are dooming Cassini to eventually fall into the giant planet, but we’d never get these incredible images otherwise, images of the greatest natural lab we’ve ever found for studying the way a planetary system can form.

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