Herschel (Mimantean crater)
Herschel // 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 largest crater relative to its parent body of any equilibrium planetary moon in the Solar System. It is so large that astronomers have expressed surprise that Mimas was not shattered by the impact that caused it. It measures 139 km across, almost 1/3 the diameter of the moon; its walls are approximately 5 km high, parts of its floor are 10–12 km deep, and its central peak rises 6–8 km above the crater floor. If there were a crater of an equivalent scale on Earth it would be over 4,000 km in diameter and wider than Canada, with walls over 200 km high. The impact that formed Herschel must have nearly disrupted Mimas entirely; chasmata can be seen on the opposite side of Mimas that may be stress fractures due to shock waves from the impact traveling through the moon and focusing there. The impact is also suspected of having something to do with the current 'Pac-Man'–shaped temperature pattern on Mimas. Herschel has an estimated age of around 4.1 billion years .
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. This is a coincidence, however, as the crater was not discovered until 1980, three years after the film was made.
Herschel at Mimas's terminator.
Cassini view of Herschel, showing crater wall albedo variation in lower left quadrant.
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- Craters on small moons such as Stickney may be comparably large ; the moons of dwarf planets have not been imaged.
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