Two new moons orbiting between Mimas and Enceladus, discovered by the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, may be the smallest bodies so far seen around the ringed planet.
The moons are approximately three kilometres and four kilometres across. Located 194 000 kilometres and 211 000 kilometres from the planets centre, the moons are between the orbits of two other Saturnian moons, Mimas and Enceladus. They are provisionally named S/2004 S1 and S/2004 S2, bringing the current total of known Saturnian moons to 33.
The moons were first seen by Dr Sebastien Charnoz, a planetary dynamicist working with the imaging team at the University of Paris. One of them, S/2004 S1, may be an object spotted in a single image taken by NASAs Voyager spacecraft 23 years ago, called at that time S/1981 S14.
The smallest previously known moons around Saturn are about 20 kilometres across. Scientists expected that moons as small as S/2004 S1 and S/2004 S2 might be found within gaps in the rings and perhaps near the F ring, so they were surprised these small bodies are between two major moons.
Roberto Lo Verde | EurekAlert!
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