2017-03-10. New Images of Pan, Saturn's Walnut Moon, in Unprecedented Detail.

posted Mar 21, 2017, 3:57 PM by Alan Gould
By JoAnna Wendel, Earth & Space Science News, EoS (AGU). For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: It’s a flying saucer! No, a celestial empanada! Or space ravioli? Nope—the weird raw images dropped by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory this week feature Saturn’s tiny moon Pan and its equatorial fringe in unprecedented detail. The Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, will crash into Saturn later this year. But its final descent brings the spacecraft closer than ever before to Saturn’s rings and offers scientists a wealth of new research opportunities.This is because the spacecraft has entered its “ring grazing orbits,” Carolyn Porco, leader of the imaging science team for Cassini and current visiting scholar at the University of California in Berkeley, told Eos. ...This close orbit allows the spacecraft to take close-up pictures of moons like Pan, which orbits Saturn at a distance of 134,000 kilometers. The new images of the 35-kilometer-wide moon feature a resolution as fine as 150 meters....Scientists have known about Pan’s tutu-shaped waistline for a long time. Ten years ago, Porco and her team wrote two papers describing how the bulge could have formed. From computer models, the researchers suspect that as the moon coalesced, material from Saturn’s rings fell onto the tiny moon’s equator and built up its disklike silhouette....  https://eos.org/articles/new-images-of-pan-saturns-walnut-moon-in-unprecedented-detail

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