WASHINGTON (TIP): Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon probably no more than half a mile in diameter. The findings may provide clues to the formation of the Saturn’s known moons and give insight into how earth and other planets in our solar system may have formed and migrated away from the sun.
Images taken with Cassini’s narrow angle camera on April 15, last year show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn’s A ring – the outermost of the planet’s large, bright rings. One of these disturbances is an arc about 20% brighter than its surroundings, 1,200 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide. “We have not seen anything like this before,” said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London. “We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right,” said Murray. The object, informally named Peggy, is too small to see in images so far. Scientists estimate it is probably no more than a half mile in diameter.