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NASA Shares Amazing Image of Saturn’s Moon Pan Captured by Cassini
NASA has shared amazing image of Saturn’s small moon Pan featuring shape similar to ravioli. The images taken by Cassini have provided interesting insights on many natural satellites of Saturn. Cassini mission has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 and before the mission ends, it will make ring-grazing’ maneuvers. Astronomers are expecting breathtaking images of Saturn’s satellites from Cassini mission.
Saturn’s moon Pan takes nearly 14 hours for full orbit around its host planet. Pan is relatively small compared to other satellites of Saturn with a diameter of 20 miles. Astronomers are curious about Pan’s distinctive shape.
Cassini has also sent closer and high resolution image of Enceladus. The images are one of the clearest images shared by NASA of Pan and Enceladus.
The official NASA release informed, “We propose that Pan and Atlas ridges are kilometers-thick 'ring-particle piles' formed after the satellites themselves and after the flattening of the rings but before the complete depletion of ring material from their surroundings.”
"I saw this picture, and I thought, that's an artist's conception," Carolyn C. Porco, leader of Cassini's imaging team.
Pan, the innermost of Saturn's known moons, has a mean radius of 8.8 miles (14.1 km) and orbits 83,000 miles (134,000 km) away from Saturn, within the Encke Gap of Saturn's A-ring. As it orbits Saturn every 13.8 hours, it acts as a shepherd moon and is responsible for keeping the Encke Gap open. The gap is a 200 mile (325 km) opening in Saturn's A ring.
Pan creates stripes, called "wakes," in the ring material on either side of it. Since ring particles closer to Saturn than Pan move faster in their orbits, these particles pass the moon and receive a gravitational "kick" from Pan as they do. This kick causes waves to develop in the gap and also throughout the ring, extending hundreds of miles into the rings. These waves intersect downstream to create the wakes, places where ring material has bunched up in an orderly manner thanks to Pan's gravitational kick.
Pan, like Saturn's moon Atlas, has a prominent equatorial ridge that gives it a distinctive flying saucer shape.