Saturn’s Still in the Business of Making Moons

Posted: April 16, 2014 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics

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Dynamic solar system.

Lights in the Dark

A 750-mile (1,200-km) -long feature spotted on Saturn’s A ring by Cassini on April 15, 2013 could be a new moon in the making (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI) This 750-mile (1,200-km) -long feature spotted on Saturn’s A ring on April 15, 2013 could be a new moon in the making (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Congratulations! It’s a baby… moon? A bright clump spotted orbiting Saturn at the outermost edge of its A ring may be a brand new moon in the process of being born, according to research recently published in the journal Icarus.

“We have not seen anything like this before,” said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University in London, lead author of the paper. “We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right.”

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Comments
  1. Konrad says:

    JPL must be happy with Cassini. Living years over its predicted life. The recent venting images from Enceladus and now this fantastic find.

  2. Sera says:

    Do we get to name the new moon? How about Horme?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horme

  3. oldbrew says:

    At 750 miles long and 0.5 miles wide it’s still got a lot to do to become a moon.

  4. Konrad says:

    oldbrew says:
    April 17, 2014 at 8:46 am
    ——————————–
    Well, the first ultrasound is always just a “I think I saw a hand” blur. Give it time 😉

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    More likely a moon being shredded by the planet and creating the ring. Seems to me that all rings around planets have “shepherding” moons IIRC. pg

  6. oldbrew says:

    pg: yes, ‘material that drifts closer to the shepherd moon’s orbit is either deflected back into the body of the ring, ejected from the system, or accreted onto the moon itself.’

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_ring#Overview

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27056698

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    Or drag from the planet is slowly pulling the dust/material from orbit. As the “moon” looses material the material slows and looses altitude. the dust has more “friction” per mass then the ablated moon-let. the rings have stripes due to changing ablation rates and radians due to rotation. At least that could be an alternate explanation. 😎 pg

  8. oldbrew says:

    More ‘moon shepherding’ here.

    Ring effects caused by Saturn's moon Pan

    ‘Pan (17 miles, or 28 kilometers across) keeps the Encke gap open through its gravitational influence on the ring particles nearby.’

    http://phys.org/news/2014-04-nasa-image-god-gap.html

    OT: another fireball flies in over Russia.
    http://phys.org/news/2014-04-fireball-russia.html