Belfast Telegraph

Detailed image reveals Saturn moon

It looks remarkably like a bath sponge floating in space - or perhaps a misshapen crumpet.

But this strange object is one of Saturn's outer moons, Hyperion, snapped in incredible detail by the Cassini spacecraft.

The American space agency Nasa's probe has been exploring Saturn and its moons since 2004.

During its flyby, Cassini was blasted by a burst of charged particles from Hyperion, effectively suffering a 200-volt electric shock.

The "attack" was due to the small moon's surface becoming electrostatically charged within Saturn's magnetic field.

Potato-shaped Hyperion, measuring 410 by 260 kilometres (255 by 161 miles), is one of the largest bodies in the solar system known to have such an irregular form.

Its "spongy" appearance is due to its very low density. The moon is porous, with well-preserved craters of all shapes and sizes packed together across its surface.

Scientists believe Hyperion is mostly made from water ice, with small amounts of rock.

The moon has a naturally reddish colour which was toned down in this image to enhance the visibility of its surface features.

Cassini was around 62,000 kilometres (38,525 miles) from Hyperion when the picture was taken on September 26, 2005.

The image has been re-released today by the European Space Agency.