Moons around Saturn are no rare thing: the planet has 62 confirmed moons, including the gigantic Titan and the ocean-holding Enceladus. However, that number may increase by one soon, thanks to new images and data by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft which indicate an icy moon-like object emerging from Saturn’s farthest ring.
Cassini captured the images last year, and after careful study, astronomers noticed a deviation on Saturn’s A ring, which is the outermost of the planet’s rings. This deviation was a rough edge along a small part of the ring’s generally smooth surface, indicating something with a gravitational pull there. Upon closer inspection, the images revealed a small object there that was 20 percent brighter than surrounding objects in the region. This object, probably a new moon, is about 750 miles long and six miles wide.
The study of this moon, named Peggy, could help us understand not only how Saturn’s moons are born, but also how other moons in our solar system, as well as planets, formed and moved away from their original sources. Because of Peggy’s appearance, along with other research, astronomers now believe that Saturn’s moons (made mostly of ice) were born this way and then moved away from the planet, possibly even combining with other moons.
Although this is the first time we’ve seen a moon being birthed, this might also be the last chance to see one around Saturn, as its rings no longer have enough material to make more moons (considering it’s already made 63, that should come as no surprise). Peggy is also expected to stay the same size and might even break apart, so studying it while we can is a priority. Let’s hope Peggy stays there until 2016 when Cassini will get closer to Saturn’s A ring to get a better look.
Via Daily Mail