A crew of NASA scientists believes they may have caught footage of Saturn creating a new moon.
A photo taken in April 2013 by NASA’s Cassini probe shows a bright arc about 750 miles long and 6 miles wide at the edge of Saturn’s outermost ring. Scientists believe the arc was likely caused by the gravity of a small nearby object – possibly a new moon.
“We have not seen anything like this before,” said astronomer Carl Murray, lead author of the study that produced the photographs. “We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right."
Here’s the photo being discussed. The white streak at the bottom of the outside ring is believed to be caused by the baby moon:
The object has been dubbed “Peggy” for now. Scientists hope to get a better look at the possible baby moon in 2016, when the Cassini probe will swoop in closer to Saturn’s outer ring.
If Peggy is in fact a moon, the finding will be made even more special by the fact that Saturn is all but done producing moons. The planet has over 60 moons, most of which were produced ages ago when Saturn’s ring system was much larger than it is now.
"The theory holds that Saturn long ago had a much more massive ring system capable of giving birth to larger moons," Murray said. "As the moons formed near the edge, they depleted the rings and evolved, so the ones that formed earliest are the largest and the farthest out."