Herschel (Mimantean crater)

Coordinates: 1°23′S 111°46′W / 1.38°S 111.76°W / -1.38; -111.76[1]

The crater Herschel on Mimas, as imaged by Cassini on August 1, 2005
The antipode of Herschel, with fractures (chasmata) possibly caused by Herschel's creation. Near the top, Ossa Chasma runs left of the double crater Gwynevere (upper left) and Launcelot.

Herschel /ˈhɜːrʃəl/ is a huge crater in the leading hemisphere of the Saturnian moon Mimas, on the equator at 100° longitude. It is named after the eighteenth century astronomer William Herschel, who discovered Mimas in 1789. Herschel is the second-largest crater relative to its parent body of any equilibrium planetary moon in the Solar System after Tethys' crater Odysseus.[2] It is so large that astronomers have expressed surprise that Mimas was not shattered by the impact that caused it. It measures 139 kilometres (86 miles)[1] across, almost one third the diameter of Mimas. Its walls are approximately 5 km (3 mi) high,[3] parts of its floor are 10–12 km (6–7 mi) deep, and its central peak rises 6–8 km (3 12–5 mi) above the crater floor.[4] If there were a crater of an equivalent scale on Earth it would be over 4,000 km (2,500 mi) in diameter – wider than Canada – with walls over 200 km (120 mi) high. The impact that formed Herschel must have nearly disrupted Mimas entirely. Chasmata that may be stress fractures due to shock waves from the impact traveling through it and focusing there can be seen on the opposite side of Mimas. The impact is also suspected of having something to do with the current 'Pac-Man'–shaped temperature pattern on Mimas.[3] Herschel has an estimated age of around 4.1 billion years.[5]

Media receptionEdit

The similarity between Mimas's appearance and the Death Star in Star Wars due to the large size of Herschel has often been noted, both in the press and in NASA/JPL press releases.[6][7] This is a coincidence, however, as the crater was not discovered until 1980, three years after the film was made.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Herschel". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  2. ^ Craters on small moons such as Stickney may be comparably large [1]; the moons of dwarf planets have not been imaged.
  3. ^ a b "Goddard Instrument Aboard Cassini Spacecraft Sees 'Pac-Man' on Saturn Moon". Goddard Space Flight Center web site. NASA. 2010-03-29.
  4. ^ Moore, Jeffrey M.; Schenk, Paul M.; Bruesch, Lindsey S.; Asphaug, Erik; McKinnon, William B. (October 2004). "Large impact features on middle-sized icy satellites" (PDF). Icarus. 171 (2): 421–443. Bibcode:2004Icar..171..421M. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2004.05.009.
  5. ^ "Impact Crater Size-Frequency Distribution (SFD) and Surface Ages on Mimas" (PDF). 2011.
  6. ^ Nicholas M. Short, Sr. "Remote Sensing Tutorial". "Saturn and its Moons". p. 19-18.
  7. ^ "PIA12570: Flying by the "Death Star" Moon". NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. 2010-03-29.
  8. ^ Young, Kelly (2005-02-11). "Saturn's moon is Death Star's twin". New Scientist.

External linksEdit