A new moon for Saturn – a family affair

Jul 19, 2007
A new moon for Saturn – a family affair
The 60th moon of Saturn reveals itself in a sequence of images. The discovery suggests that the new moon, along with its neighbors Methone and Pallene (discovered by the Cassini imaging team in 2004), may form part of a larger group of moons in this region. The movie spans six hours. Initial calculations show the moon to have a width of approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), with an orbit that lies between those of the moons Methone and Pallene. The moon's orbit is in resonance with another moon, Mimas, also seen in this sequence as a very bright, moving object. The new moon's location is indicated by a red box. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Scientists from the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini mission have announced the discovery of a new moon orbiting Saturn, bringing the total number of known moons in the Saturnian system to 60.

This latest satellite was first detected by Professor Carl Murray, a Cassini Imaging Team scientist from Queen Mary’s Astronomy Unit. It was found in a series of images taken from the wide-angle camera onboard Cassini on 30 May 2007.

Initial calculations, which show the moon to be only approximately 2 km (1 mile) wide, indicate that the orbit of the moon lies between those of two other Saturnian moons, Methone and Pallene (also discovered by the Cassini Imaging Team in 2004).

Professor Murray takes up the story: “The Saturnian system continues to amaze and intrigue us with many hidden treasures being discovered the more closely we look. After initially detecting this extremely faint object, we carried out an exhaustive search of all Cassini images to date and were able to find further detections.

“The latest discovery suggests that the three satellites may form part of a family of moons in this region. Naturally we are going to use Cassini’s cameras to search for additional family members.”

Professor Murray was also the first person to detect another moon of Saturn, Polydeuces, seen in Cassini images in October 2004. However, he is keen to emphasise the collaborative nature of this work. “Finding new moons and working out their orbits is a group effort. The credit for both of these discoveries should go to the entire Cassini Imaging Team.”

The closest approach to the satellite to date was on 28 June 2007 when Cassini passed at a distance of 32,000 km. Scientists hope to be able to get a closer look at the newly identified moon later in the mission.

Affectionately known as “Frank” to the Queen Mary scientists that first identified it, the satellite is set to have a more fitting name assigned to it – akin to its ‘cousins’ Methone and Pallene - who are named after the Greek Alkyonides. This is a decision for the International Astronomical Union (IAU) – the body responsible for officially naming planetary objects. So far only 48 of the 60 moons discovered have been given names. ‘Frank’ has received the preliminary designation S/2007 S 4 by the IAU. See notes to editors for further details about the naming of moons.

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) commented: “It is amazing to think that when Cassini embarked upon its epic journey to Saturn in 1997, we only knew about 18 of its moons. Since then, through observations from ground based telescopes and the Cassini spacecraft, a further 42 have been identified!”

Source: Queen Mary, University of London

Explore further: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

4 hours ago

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

NASA Cassini images may reveal birth of a Saturn moon

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet's known ...

Join in the Cassini name game

Apr 11, 2014

As NASA's Cassini mission approaches its 10th anniversary at Saturn, its team members back here on Earth are already looking ahead to an upcoming phase.

Cassini captures familiar forms on Titan's dunes

Apr 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —The moons of our Solar System are brimming with unusual landscapes. However, sometimes they look a little more familiar, as in this new radar image from the Cassini orbiter. The image shows ...

Recommended for you

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

5 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.