Tiny Moon Makes Waves In Saturn's Rings
A tiny moon orbiting Saturn has been caught creating ripples in the trademark rings around the gas giant planet in new photos from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
The new Saturn moon photos show Daphnis, a diminutive satellite just 5 miles (8 km) wide. But Daphnis is still large enough that its gravitational pull can disrupt nearby ring material as it circles Saturn.
Saturn's rings are made of ice and dirt ranging in from small particles to boulders and countless larger objects as big as houses and even small towns. The rings' total diameter is about 175,000 miles (282,000 km), but they're just over half a mile (1 km) thick. In the new photos, shallow scalloped waves propagate along the edges of the Keeler Gap ? a rift in Saturn's outer A ring about 26 miles wide (42 km) that is home to Daphnis. The waves have both vertical and horizontal components because the moon moves in inclined orbit.
The new photos are the closest ever captured of Daphnis, which was discovered in 2005. It orbits Saturn at a distance of about 84,820 miles (136,505 km) from the planet's center. [Photos of Saturn moons]
Daphnis was the second moon discovered to fly within the Saturn's rings. The first was Pan, which is 16 miles (25 km) across and orbits in Saturn's Encke Gap, another break in the planet's ring system.
To date, astronomers have discovered more than 60 Saturn moons, though only 53 of them have been named, according to a NASA database.
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