Moons, Moons Everywhere

The propeller-shaped wake of a moonlet imaged by Cassini

Released today, this image shows one of many small (half-mile wide) moons that orbit Saturn within the rings themselves, creating a “propellers” of gravitationally-tugged ring particles on either side of it. The Cassini team has been watching these interesting ring features for some time, and has carefully tracked eleven of the larger ones over the past several years.

What is outstanding about these new findings is the insight they ultimately will provide into the early stages of solar system formation, when growing planets become large enough to open gaps in the ring material around them and ultimately truncate their own growth.

– Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team Leader

Read the release notes on this and more images on the Cassini Imaging lab site here. A paper on these moons can be found here.

Appropriately, the moonlets and their propellers have been unofficially named after famous aviators…Earhart, Santos-Dumont, etc. 3…2…1….contact! 🙂

Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute