The Secret That Is Tethys

It is with great interest that I watch the images coming back from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn. It has been a slow and steady flow of tantalizing snapshots from near space.

As it approached the planet, Cassini produced news in the form of exceptionally detailed images of Saturn, its rings and moon Titan. Mostly, these photos only attract the geekiest among us who seek them out on the Ciclops site (that’s the correct spelling, I’m afraid).

I return to Ciclops on an irregular basis to read and look. Tonight, I saw something unlike anything I’d ever seen before – a beautiful view of Tethys.

Tethys is one of the 30+ moons of Saturn. We really don’t know the exact total and the somewhat fluid definition of what a moon is doesn’t help.

It is not particularly large, only 659 miles across and not incredibly noteworthy… except its density is very similar to that of water. More than likely Tethys is composed mainly of ice. That’s certainly the impression you get when you look at the photos. Icy and frosty are two words I thought of when I first saw it. Though there are craters, and craters within craters, they look frozen in time (pun intended) – unchanged by any internal or external force.

Making the photo even more interesting is the promise that Cassini will be back, making an even closer approach to Tethys in September 2005, ten months from now.

Is it OK to say I’m geeky enough to be excited at the prospect?

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