The joint NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission is continuing to provide a fascinating insight into the Saturn system. The latest detection of one small body, possibly two, orbiting in the planet’s contorted F ring region and a ring of new material associated with Saturn’s moon Atlas, has been made by a team of UK scientists.
A small object was discovered moving near the outside edge of the F ring, interior to the orbit of Saturn’s moon Pandora. The object was first seen by Professor Carl Murray, imaging team member at Queen Mary, University of London, in images taken on June 21, 2004, just days before Cassini arrived at Saturn. “I noticed this barely detectable object skirting the outer part of the F ring. It was an incredible privilege to be the first person to spot it.” Murray’s group at Queen Mary was the first to calculate an orbit for the object.
Scientists cannot yet definitively say if the object is a moon or a temporary ‘clump’. If it is a moon, its diameter is estimated at four to five kilometres (two to three miles) and it is located 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the F ring, Saturn’s outmost ring. It is at a distance of approximately 141,000 kilometres (86,000 miles) from the centre of Saturn and within 300 kilometres (190 miles) of the orbit of the moon Pandora. The object has been provisionally named S/2004 S3.
Julia Maddock | alfa
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