NASA’s Cassini spacecraft which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 has captured some spectacular images of the gas giant and its strange-looking moon Pan. On March 9th Cassini spaceship has sent Earth some captures of what astronomers like to call “space ravioli,” namely Saturn’s weird-shaped moon. The small moon of Saturn looks just like a cosmic empanada, some would say.
- Cassini spacecraft has sen new captures of Saturn and its moon Pan.
- The pictures revealed that moon Pan has a strange shape, looking like a space ravioli.
- Scientists indicate that those ridges around the satellite formed from the accumulation of ring particles.
The moon Pan is a distinctively shaped satellite situated very close to Saturn that it completes a full orbit in only 14 hours. The moon has a diameter of approximately 20 miles, looking as if it were a shepherd for the material which makes up the rings of Saturn. The celestial object clears a massive space in the middle of these rings called the Encke Gap.
As scientists stated in a study back in 2007 which was published in Science magazine, Saturn’s moon Pan and another moon of the gas giant developed their equatorial striations from the aggregation of ring particles which were accumulated there over time as the two moons orbit around the planet. The authors of the study back then argued that the ridges of moons Atlas and Pan represent piles of ring particles which developed to be kilometers thick.
These ridges formed after the satellites did and even after the rings of the gas giant started flattening. Nevertheless, the striations formed before the complete degradation of ring material which surrounded them. The images which were sent by Cassini on Thursday represent some of the clearest pictures of moon Pan.
Carolyn C. Porco, the leader of Cassini’s imagining team and visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, stated that when she saw the picture of the “space ravioli,” she believed that it was a conception of an artist about this small moon of Saturn. But it was an image sent by Cassini, the robotic spaceship initiated by NASA, the European Space Agency, and Italy’s space agency.
This rover, after circulating the gas giant for over a decade now, it has only a few months left before it starts its Grand Finale, as NASA astronomers call it. Cassini will plunge past Saturn to gather data about the gravitational fields of the planet, its ring mass, and its atmosphere.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia