The Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn has taken a picture of a flying-saucer-shaped object using a force field to manipulate one of the planet’s rings.
Yes, I know what today is! But I assure you, this picture is quite real:
The object is Saturn’s moon Prometheus, a chunk of ice about 136 kilometers (85 miles) long. It orbits Saturn near the planet’s narrow F ring, and that’s no coincidence. Prometheus and its sister moon Pandora flank the ring (Prometheus on the inside—toward Saturn—and Pandora on the outer side), and the force of their gravity helps constrain the tight path of the ring particles. For this reason they’re called shepherd moons.
This picture threw me for a moment. Prometheus is elongated and potato-shaped, while Pandora is somewhat squatter. In some pictures Pandora is the one that looks like a flying saucer, but the angle of the sunlight here gives Prometheus a decidedly alien spaceshipy look. It looks very much like an April Fools' Day picture just posted by International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield, too.
TODAY IN SLATE
Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man
The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.
Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.
Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution
Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show
Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada
Now, journalists can't even say her name.
Lena Dunham, the Book
More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.