Pan is a moon of the planet Saturn and also happens to have an unusual job “Ring Shepherd”. These are moons which help maintain the many gaps we find within Saturn’s rings. Pan is shown above in it’s natural habitat within the Encke Division of Saturn’s rings. But take a look at what Pan looks like up-close (below).
We have seen this kind of phenomenon at Saturn before, but never quite this dramatic. A small standard potato shaped moon transformed by the accumulation of ring dust and particles into a ravioli shaped moon.
Worth noting that the color shown above is mostly true. The red channel is replaced by infrared and blue channel replaced by ultraviolet — both offer a view that comes close to what you would see with natural light (RGB).
All images were taken by Cassini in March 2017 and processed by Ian Regan.
Discover online has an article today about some of the best in amateur space imaging. Many of which have been featured here on Wanderingspace before like Gordan Ugarkovic, Emily Lakdawalla and Bjorn Jonsson to name a few. The last item from Bill Dunford of Riding With Robots is an image that he actually suggested NASA point their HiRise cameras at that location. He suspected they might find something interesting there and they did —flash water movement and evidence of avalanches.
If you follow this blog on any basis, you might be well aware that a good percentage of the imagery is provided by our good flickr friend Gordan Ugarkovic. Here is a bit of what we missed from him in the last 10 months we were locked out.
Titan at the edge of Saturn taken 2011-05-21. Looks unreal. Like Titan was dropped into the scene using Photoshop. A sin I would never commit. See the lesser “official” NASA version released a few months back here.
Keeping with the theme of moons transiting Saturn. Here is Rhea and tiny Epimetheus doing what they do. Taken in 2010-03-24.
Finally, just to change it up… two moons against Titan, another of Saturn’s moons. Pictured above the Titanian cloud-tops is Dione on the left and Rhea on the right.
Space enthusiasts seem to really like shots that have more than one body in the same frame. How about five… or six (if you count the rings of Saturn)? Starting left to right that is Janus, Pandora, Enceladus, Mimas and Rhea.
Thanks again to Gordan Ugarkovic.
The tiny moon Helene seems to be experiencing some kind of erosion based on new hires images acquired by the Cassini mission in orbit around Saturn. If this is true, this would be quite a mystery considering the moon’s tiny mass and almost total lack of any gravitational ability to shape it’s own surface. Surely this must be coming from external forces such as ring particles being dumped on the surface in one area and then slowly being shaken downslope by small impacts over a very long time. Maybe?
Another color composite by Gordan Ugarkovic.
And a bonus Helene crescent image with posterization effects removed by Wanderingspace.
Prometheus is the small moon that shepherds Saturn’s outer “F” ring and causes those crazy waves in the particles that make up the ring itself. The phenomenon has been the theme of at least 3 different animations here on wanderingspace.net. The image above is what that small moon in those animations looks like from 60,000 km taken by Cassini on Dec 26, 2009.
Recent observations of Saturn’s rings from Cassini reveal some vertical structure to the rings. Shown here are disturbances caused by Daphnis, a small moonlet that orbits within the Keeler Gap of the rings. We have seen much of these kinds of disturbances in the rings from tiny moonlets, but the Saturninan equinox finally provides us with an angle of sunlight that reveals such structures from the long shadows they cast. The tallest shadow seen at right is Daphnis itself.
Some recent posts from Gordan Ugarkovic. The first is just gorgeous, the second featuring Prometheus and Pan in the gaps, the third is also just real pretty and the 4th is two sides of Enceladus. The 2nd and 4th of these images are false color which we publish less often, but these were just too nice to deny.
Yes, another movie of Prometheus disturbing Saturn’s rings. This is the longest clip and includes the most ring swinging action for your money. This version has been cropped and reduced down from the original. See here for a larger, wider view of the same animation (2M gif).
From the raw images of the Cassini mission. This is Saturn’s tiny moon Prometheus causing a disturbance in some ring particles. Nothing really new to be said here as we have seen this featured in a few animations posted here before. This is just a nice image of that phenomenon with the addition of a nice glaringly over-exposed Prometheus.
This improved image of Epimetheus was released to the Cassini site yesterday and as compared to this more raw image post from December 8, it is most notably cleaner, processed in color and appears to be much sharper.
This is a view of the moon’s more southern pole and there is speculation that covering a majority of this face is actually one large impact crater which could explain it’s flattened appearance. There also seems to be what looks like a deposit or “dusting” of material all over this face which seems to blanket flat areas and begins to fill some craters and other depressed regions. The moon is only about 70 x 50 km in size, approximately the size of a city such as Los Angeles.
There have been some nice NASA animations of the interaction between some “shepard” moons and the rings, but this has to be the most impressive. There are some blank frames in there for gaps in the data… but the effect is still easy to follow.