Flying Saucers Around Saturn

09 December 2007


The enormous ATLAS detector – the largest of the four detectors at the LHC. Look at the man on the gangway in the background for scale!


Scientists have found two objects, a few kilometres across, orbiting Saturn that look like 1950's B movie flying saucers. Although there is no need to run for the hills (or possibly the mines) quite yet as they are just two moons of Saturn called Pan and Atlas orbiting in amongst Saturn's rings.

They are each approximately circular with a large bulge around their equator. This perculiar shape has only recently come to light with high resolution pictures coming from the Cassini spacecraft.

It is thought that they were formed with the rest of the ring as an icy body broke up newar to Saturn. The moons were in the centre of the ring, which is considerably narrower than the diameter of both moons. This meant that more material hit them on the equator than at the poles, so they grew a bulge around them middle.

 Hopefully Cassini will be able to provide some even better pictures in the future.

Pan and Atlas


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