Tuesday, August 16, 2022

HERSCHEL, ONE OF THE LARGEST CRATERS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM

Mimas is a small moon with a diameter of 400 km that orbits Saturn. When the first probes flew over this satellite, astronomers were surprised to discover that on its surface there is a huge crater with a diameter of 130 km!

This crater, known as Herschel, is the second largest crater in the Solar System in relation to the size of the host body. Consider that proportionally such a crater on Earth would have a diameter of 4000 km and would be as big as Canada!

At the time of its discovery, astronomers were particularly surprised that the impact that produced this crater did not completely destroy the entire moon. The signs of this violent collision are still evident on all its surface: the seismic waves generated during the impact propagated through the internal structure of Mimas until they met in the diametrically opposite part of the surface creating a series of fractures of the crust.

Assumptions about the composition and size of the impacting body can be made by studying the chemical composition of the crater. From this image we can see that the interior of the crater has a different color from the rest of the surface of Mimas. This difference in color corresponds to a different chemical composition, which could then shed light on the violent impact that shaped the story of the moon.

Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA. 

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