Some space stuff

Some cool space stuff.

Saturn’s moon Pan:  Here’s Our Best Look Yet at Saturn’s ‘UFO’ Moon

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There’s a tiny “flying saucer” orbiting deep within Saturn’s rings, and a NASA probe has just gotten its most impressive look yet at the strange object.

The saucer is actually a little moon called Pan, and NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured its distinctive shape on March 7 in a stunningly detailed series of images.

Named for the flute-playing Greek god of wild places, 21-mile-wide Pan is what’s called a shepherd moon. It lives within a gap in Saturn’s A ring, which is the farthest loop of icy particles from the planet.

“The shape, as others have also pointed out, is probably because it is always sweeping up fine dust from the rings,” Showalter explains. “The rings are very thin compared to the size of Pan, so the dust accumulates around its equator.”

Pan isn’t alone in its bizarre appearance: Another small moon, Atlas, bears a similar shape for similar reasons.

And on a different scale: Hubble Showcases a Remarkable Galactic Hybrid

A remarkable galactic hybrid

 This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image showcases the remarkable galaxy UGC 12591. UGC 12591 sits somewhere between a lenticular and a spiral. It lies just under 400 million light-years away from us in the westernmost region of the Pisces–Perseus Supercluster, a long chain of galaxy clusters that stretches out for hundreds of millions of light-years — one of the largest known structures in the cosmos.

The galaxy itself is also extraordinary: it is incredibly massive. The galaxy and its halo together contain several hundred billion times the mass of the sun; four times the mass of the Milky Way. It also whirls round extremely quickly, rotating at speeds of up to 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) per hour.

Observations with Hubble are helping astronomers to understand the mass of UGC 12591, and to determine whether the galaxy simply formed and grew slowly over time, or whether it might have grown unusually massive by colliding and merging with another large galaxy at some point in its past.


Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Text credit: European Space Agency