Saturn, our favorite ringed planet, may soon be sending out the birth announcements if what scientists believe is happening within its many circles “rings” true. Photos taken my the Cassini space probe show something odd happening in the rings that circle the planet, and this new find may be the key to understanding how our solar system, including the Earth, was made. The photos show a luminescent arc about 750 miles long and 6 miles wide in Saturn’s outermost ring that exhibits an unusual bump. NASA experts believe this is a newly forming moon being made up from the icy particles that make up Saturn’s rings.
“We have not seen anything like this before,” lead author of the study Carl Murray, of Queen Mary University of London, responded in a statement. “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.”
The object is just a tiny thing compared to the other natural satellites that circle Saturn, coming in at only 0.5 miles (0.8 km) wide, far too small for the Cassini probe to spot directly. But NASA is panning to get much closer to the outer ring the object, named Peggy, is in by 2016. This will give researchers a good look at the object they believe may one day become another big boy in Saturn’s playground.
“The theory holds that Saturn long ago had a much more massive ring system capable of giving birth to larger moons,” Murray explained. “As the moons formed near the edge, they depleted the rings and evolved, so the ones that formed earliest are the largest and the farthest out.”
Saturn has over 60 moons known to date, some ranging from mile-wide ice balls and others, such as the infamous Titan, that is one and a half times the size of our own moon. Scientists believe that these moons, as well as the newly found baby Peggy, began forming in the inner rings and moved outward as they grew bigger. As these proto-moons begin to migrate, they combine with other young proto-moons, growing larger as they attract more matter.
While Peggy may not become a superstar moon in our lifetime, we still get to see the birth-pangs as the young lady rock stretches its way into our reality. And maybe one day, the little chunk of dust and ice will be a place humanity will call home.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) April 16, 2014
Scientists say they have discovered what could be the birth of a new moon in the rings of Saturn.
— CNC3TV (@CNC3TV) April 16, 2014
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