Saturn Rings appear to have been caught birthing a new moon

A new moon might have just popped out of Saturn’s rings. Images from a NASA spacecraft show a disturbance along the rings’ edge that is probably being caused by an unseen object stirring up the icy bands. The region has since quietened down, suggesting that we may have witnessed the birth of a small moon.

Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London and colleagues were looking at pictures of the small moon Prometheus taken by NASA’s Cassini orbiter. In an image from 15 April, they noticed an unexpected distortion in the A ring, the outermost of the planet’s thick, bright rings.

“I’d never seen anything quite like this at the edge of the A ring,” Murray said today during a talk at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The thin, outermost ring shown in this picture from the Cassini probe is Saturn’s F ring, and the bright dot near it is the moon Prometheus. The thicker white band is the A ring, and the smudge near what looks like the tip of that ring was caused by Peggy (Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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