Friday, December 7, 2007

The Flying Saucers Have Been Found!

(From Jazz)

Well... ok. Not really, but they sure look like it! This just in from NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs. (Hey hey hey... here comes the science!)
Imaging scientists on NASA's Cassini mission are telling a tale of how the small moons orbiting near the outer rings of Saturn came to be. The moons began as leftover shards from larger bodies that broke apart and filled out their "figures" with the debris that made the rings.

The tip-off was the very low density of the inner moons, about half that of pure water ice, and sizes and shapes that suggested they have grown by the accumulation of ring material. The trouble was, these moons are within and near the rings, where it is not possible for small particles to fuse together gravitationally. So how did they do it? They got a jump start.
If you follow the link I provided above, you'll see a detailed image of two of Saturn's tiny moons out in the area of the rings - Atlas and Pan. These aren't places you would want to build a vacation home on... they are less than 30 kilometers in diameter. But the interesting bit is that they really are shaped like saucers with a bit of a bulge in the middle. Plus, they're fragile enough that you could probably bust them up with a decent sized hammer.
You can sign up for periodic e-mail updates on the Cassini mission (along with everything else NASA is up to) and links to cool pictures by writing to

No comments: