REALSPACE: Weirdest. Moon. Ever.

Republibot 3.0
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Saturn has sixty-three (known) moons. Actually, since the rings are made up of tiny solid objects, the planet *technically* has quadrillions of moons, but for our purposes it's got sixty three that you can point at and say, "Hey, that's not a ring!" These range from small ones a half-mile across all the way up to Titan, the second-largest moon in the solar system (Larger than the planet Mercury). Most of them are pretty dinky, though. Only 13 are larger than thirty miles across, and only seven of these have enough mass for their own gravity to pull them into a ball shape. the rest are irregular baked-potato things.

I like to call the small ones "Moonbergs." You know, like icebergs because they're floating and...yeah. Nevermind.

Anyway, the moon "Pan" was discovered in 1990 by Voyager 2. This is one of the first pictures ever taken of itand you'll notice that the equator looks kind of weird. It's obscured, hard to see. This was hard to explain, as the moon orbits in a gap between the rings. It was thought that this was simply because Pan was in the middle of a cloud of debris or uncollected ring material, the parts we can see sticking out above and below it.

Nope. The Cassini probe sent back the first good pictures of it last year. Check this out: (click for a larger version)New Cassini photo of Pan

It's a flying saucer! The moon Atlas (Discovered in 1980)is about the same size, and displays similar flying saucerist tendencies, though not as impressively.

Why? Nobody knows, but the working theory is that as these moons fly along, they collide with grain-of-sand sized ring particles at very slow speeds. These just kind of stack up on top of each other, and as the moons have insufficient gravity to pull them over, they just keep stacking higher and higher until you've got these rims. Presumably stronger collisions would knock 'em over, and then the whole thing would start up again.

Neat universe. Neat, neat universe.

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