Over 700 million miles away, a tiny space dumpling orbits Saturn.
At least, that’s the food item that came to my mind after checking out the new images of Saturn’s moon Pan. Since the images were snapped by NASA spacecraft Cassini on Tuesday and released Thursday, others have suggested the moon looks like a classic Italian ravioli, a flaky empanada, and even a walnut. I think it could also pass as a pierogi or maybe even a gyoza.
Some even wrote songs about the petite moon because of its strikingly ravioli-esque appearance.
These are the closest images ever taken of the moon — Cassini flew by just 15,268 miles from Pan to capture its appearance. The moon has a radius of less than 9 miles.
Pan gets its delicious shape from something called an equatorial ridge, a feature it shares with two other moons of Saturn called Atlas and Iapetus. As Cassini imaging lead Carolyn Porco writes on Twitter, that ridge very likely grows as moons orbit inside Saturn’s rings. The ring material builds up around the moons’ equators, turning them into dumplings.