New observations of propeller-shaped disturbances in Saturns A ring indicate the presence of four small, embedded moons -- and most likely millions more, Cornell University astronomers report.
The left image shows the B ring, Cassini Division, A ring and F ring, with the location of the propeller-shaped disturbances indicated. The center image is a closer view of the A ring, showing the radial locations where propeller features were spotted. In the right-hand image, the propellers appear as double dashes in the two close-up images. The unseen moonlets, each roughly the size of a football field, lie in the center of each structure. (The horizontal lines in the image represent electronic noise and do not correspond to ring features.)
This is the first evidence of the existence of moonlets bridging the gap in size between the larger ring moons Pan and Daphnis (several miles each in diameter) and the much smaller ice particles that comprise the bulk of the rings. The discovery could lead to a better understanding of the origin and formation of Saturns rings and the solar system as a whole.
Matthew Tiscareno, a Cornell research associate, is lead author of a paper describing the discovery in the March 30 issue of the journal Nature.
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