Saturn’s 60th (moon, not birthday)


I received the following email this morning from the Astronomical Association of Northern California via my membership in the Fremont Peak Observatory Association announcing the discovery of Saturn’s 60th moon, temporarily nicknamed ‘Frank’.


-----Original Message-----
From: contacts-bounces@aanc-astronomy.org
[mailto:contacts-bounces@aanc-astronomy.org] On Behalf Of Kenneth Frank
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2007 8:55 AM
To: AANC Contacts
Subject: [AANC Contacts] Saturn Turns 60

Since I'm part of the Saturn observing campaign, I thought you'd like to
know.

Ken Frank

Saturn Turns 60
July 19, 2007

Scientists have recently discovered that the planet Saturn is turning 60
-not years, but moons.

"We detected the 60th moon orbiting Saturn using the Cassini
spacecraft's powerful wide-angle camera," said Carl Murray, a Cassini
imaging team scientist from Queen Mary,
  University of London. "I was looking at images of the region near the
Saturnian moons Methone and Pallene and something caught my eye."

The newly discovered moon first appeared as a very faint dot in a series
of images Cassini took of the Saturnian ring system on May 30 of this
year. After the initial detection, Murray and fellow Cassini imaging
scientists played interplanetary detective, searching for clues of the
new moon in the voluminous library of Cassini images to date.

The Cassini imaging team's legwork paid off. They were able to locate
numerous additional detections, spanning from June 2004 to June 2007.
"With these new data sets we were able to establish a good orbit for the
new moon," said Murray.
"Knowing where the moons are at all times is important to the Cassini
mission for several reasons."

One of the most important reasons for Cassini to chronicle these
previously unknown space rocks is so the spacecraft itself does not run
into them. Another reason is each discovery helps provide a better
understanding about how Saturn's ring system and all its billions upon
billions of parts work and interact together. Finally, a discovery of a
moon is important because with this new knowledge, the Cassini mission
planners and science team can plan to perform science experiments during
future observations if and when the opportunity presents itself.

What of this new, 60th discovered moon of Saturn? Cassini scientists
believe "Frank"
(the working name for the moon until another, perhaps, more appropriate
one is
found)  is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) wide and, like so many of its
neighbors, is made mostly of ice and rock. The moon's location in the
Saturnian sky is between the orbits of Methone and Pallene. It is the
fifth moon discovered by the Cassini imaging team.

"When the Cassini mission launched back in 1997, we knew of only 18
moons orbiting Saturn," said Murray. "Now, between Earth-based
telescopes and Cassini we have more than tripled that number - and each
and every new discovery adds another piece to the puzzle and becomes
another new world to explore."

Murray and his colleagues may get the chance to explore Saturn's 60th
moon. The Cassini spacecraft's trajectory will put it within 7,300 miles
(11,700 kilometers) in December of 2009.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the
European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Cassini- Huygens mission for
NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter
and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at
JPL.  The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder,
Colo.

					
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s