ITHACA, N.Y., (UPI) — A moon of Saturn that looks like a cosmic wet sponge is in fact covered in ices, both of water and carbon dioxide, images from a NASA spacecraft show.
Hyperion, with an irregular potato-like shape and honeycomb surface, is the subject of a new analysis of images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in September 2005, ScienceNews.org reported Wednesday.
Hydrocarbons and iron-containing compounds mixed in with the ice give the moon a reddish appearance, researchers said.
Writing in the planetary science journal Icarus, scientists say Hyperion shows similarities to some comets, suggesting the possibility the moon formed elsewhere before being captured by Saturn.
A separate team of researchers reporting in the same issue of Icarus says Hyperion’s strange, sponge-like surface is likely the result of a number of processes, including impacts blasting debris into space, eroding crater walls and melting of ice, all contributing to creating one of the solar system’s most strangely-shaped inhabitants.