Cassini image of Saturn's ice moon Dione
Cassini view of Dione showing whispy white ice fractures
Cassini mosaic image of Dione showing varied features

Cassini image of Saturn's
ice moon Dione

(NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Cassini view of Dione showing whispy white ice fractures
(NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Cassini image of Dione showing craters and other features
(NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Mother of Aphrodite

Dione [dy-OH-nee] is the twelfth of Saturn's moons. It was named after the mother of Aphrodite and Zeus in Greek mythology (Venus and Jupiter in Roman). Dione was discovered in 1684 by Giovanni Cassini. Just about everything we know about this moon was learned from the Voyager encounters.

Cassini view of Dione with Saturn in the background
Cassini close-up image of Dione showing fractured terrain
Cassini image of Dioneshowing craters and ice fractures

Cassini view of Dione with
Saturn in the background

(NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Cassini close-up image of Dione showing fractured terrain
(NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Cassini image of Dioneshowing craters and ice fractures
(NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

A Desolate Ice world

Dione is the densest of Saturn's moons with the exception of Titan. It is composed mainly of water ice, but must contain a larger amount of rocky material than Saturn's other ice moons, Tethys and Rhea. Dione is very similar to Rhea in composition, although somewhat smaller. Dione is believed to have a rocky core with less ice coverage than Rhea.

This Cassini spacecraft image shows Dione in orbit above the planet Saturn

This Cassini spacecraft image shows Dione in orbit above the planet Saturn. Cloud bands and oval-shaped
storms can be seen on the planet below
. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Features of Dione

Dione is locked in a synchronous orbit similar to that of Rhea. This causes the same face of the moon to point towards Saturn at all times. Dione has similar albedo features and terrain to that of its close cousin, Rhea. Dione's surface consists of heavily cratered areas, moderate and lightly cratered plains, and bright, wispy features. Most of the heavily cratered areas exist on the trailing hemisphere of the moon. Some of these craters exceed 62 miles (100 km) in diameter, while most of the craters in the plains areas are less than 18 miles (30 km) in diameter. The largest crater is called Amata and is 150 miles (241 km) in diameter. Like Rhea, these craters lack the high relief features seen on Mercury and the Moon. Heavy cratering would normally be expected on the leading edge of a tidally locked satellite. Since most of Dione's craters are located on the trailing hemisphere, astronomers believe that Rhea may have once been tidally locked with Saturn in the opposite orientation. Since Dione is relatively small, it would have only taken an impact leaving a 21-mile (35 km) crater to spin the moon around. With many craters on Dione exceeding 21 miles, it is possible that the moon has been spun around more than once throughout its long history. The origin of the bright, wispy streaks is not known. The streaks overlay many of the craters, which indicates that they are newer. They may have been formed by ice eruptions through cracks in the surface. This material may have fallen back to the surface as snow or ash. Dione has no detectable atmosphere.

 

 

Statistics for Dione

Discovered by

Year of Discovery

Diameter

Mean Distance from Saturn

Rotational Period

Orbital Period

Orbital Eccentricity

Orbital Inclination

Mean Surface Temperature

Main Atmospheric Component

Apparent Magnitude

......

......

......

......

......

......

......

......

......

......

......

Giovanni Cassini

1684

697.8 miles (1,123 km)

234,567 miles (377,400 km)

2.74 days

2.74 days

0.0022

0.02 degrees

-303° F (-186° C)

none

10.4

 

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