The bright point of light in this raw image isn’t a star. It’s one of Saturn’s 61 known moons, the tiny 3-mile-wide Pallene (pronounced pal-LEE-nee). This little moon’s orbit is between those of much larger Mimas and Enceladus, around 131,000 miles out from Saturn. Only recently discovered in 2004 by the Cassini team, not much is known about Pallene, except that it shares its orbital zone with two even smaller sister moons, Methone and Anthe, and all three have their orbits greatly affected by nearby Mimas.
It’s thought that the three moons may be remnants of a larger cluster of bodies that passed through Saturn’s region at one time, or else may be pieces that have broken off of either Mimas or Enceladus. Either way, they are part of the Saturnian family now, their images added to the grand portrait being painted by the Cassini spacecraft.
This image was taken on June 12, 2009, and, like all raw images, has not been validated or calibrated.
Raw image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI