Dione's Icy Canyons

  • Released Thursday, March 10th, 2016
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:48PM

Dione is one of 62 known moons of Saturn. Fuzzy photos from NASA’s Voyager missions in the 1980s revealed distinctive white streaks, called "wispy terrain," slicing across its surface. Today, thanks to sharper images captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has orbited the Saturn system since 2004, we know that the features are a network of canyons. The canyon's ice-covered walls can tower hundreds of feet high, and in some places, stretch for hundreds of miles. But the question is how did they form? Dione's landscape sparkles with frozen water, hinting at an ancient liquid ocean hidden below ground. This internal sea might have formed cracks in the moon as it froze, or the cracks could be caused by the combined gravitational push and pull of Saturn and its other moons. Data from Cassini collected during its flybys of Dione could offer new clues. Explore the images to learn more.

Dione's maze of towering canyons appears as bright scuffs in this image taken by Cassini.

Dione's maze of towering canyons appears as bright scuffs in this image taken by Cassini.

The canyons are mainly found on Dione's trailing hemisphere, which faces away from Saturn as the moon orbits the planet.

The canyons are mainly found on Dione's trailing hemisphere, which faces away from Saturn as the moon orbits the planet.

Dione's canyons can extend for over 370 miles, or more than 1.3 times the length of the Grand Canyon.

Dione's canyons can extend for over 370 miles, or more than 1.3 times the length of the Grand Canyon.

The Cassini spacecraft captured images of Dione during several close flybys made over the course of its mission.

The Cassini spacecraft captured images of Dione during several close flybys made over the course of its mission.


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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Images courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute