Planets and Moons  ID: 11698

Pan Almighty

Saturn’s innermost moon, Pan, appears to be just a tiny dot circling a much bigger world. But the 17-mile-wide object shaped like a flying saucer has an outsized effect on Saturn’s rings. Ring particles are swept aside by the moon’s gravity, resulting in a 200-mile-wide break in the rings known as the Encke Gap. The moon also leaves a mark on the rings themselves. Ring particles closer to Saturn orbit faster than Pan. As they pass the moon, Pan gives them a gravitational boost that bunches up the particles and sets off cascading ripples through the rings. Explore the images for views of Pan and Saturn’s rings taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Story Credits

Lead Writer:
Lisa Marie Potter (USRA)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Images courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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