Images taken from NASA ‘s Cassini spacecraft suggests that Saturn ,the sixth planet in our solar system, is about to give birth to a new moon. NASA first spotted this formation on 15 April 2014 when they encountered a small icy formation around the outermost ring of Saturn. Scientists named this new moon as ‘Peggy’and if its successfully formed, it will be 63rd moon orbiting around the Saturn.
“We have not seen anything like this before,” said astronomer Carl Murray, lead author of a study in Icarus which outlined the findings and the discoverer of the moon. “We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right.”
NASA said that this new moon is too small to be seen directly but was easily spotted due to outermost bright rings of the Saturn, which stretches from 70,000 km to 80,000 km above the surface of planet and has varying width of 10 m to 1 km. Rings are made up of icy materials and have scattered particles. These particles combine due to gravitational force to become more solid and bigger particles and eventually giving birth to a moon. If Peggy does grow up and is able to leave the rings it would be .5 miles in diameter while Saturn’s largest natural satellite Titan has a diameter of more than 5,000 km. Reports suggests that every successive moon of Saturn is smaller in size than the previous one, this may be due to depletion of raw material required for the formation of moon. Peggy may be the last moon to enter in the Saturn’s family.
“The object is not expected to grow any larger, and may even be falling apart,” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But the process of its formation and outward movement aids in our understanding of how Saturn’s icy moons, including the cloud-wrapped Titan and ocean-holding Enceladus, may have formed in more massive rings long ago.”
“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.”
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency and JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology. Scientists are interested in this event as it may give them clue regarding several astronomical activities including formation of planets.