Meet Peggy, New Saturn Moon

Scientists think they've spotted a tiny one being formed
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2014 5:07 PM CDT
Updated Apr 19, 2014 7:00 PM CDT
This 2004 image provided by NASA, taken by the Cassini Saturn Probe, shows the planet Saturn and its rings.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – Astronomers think they're seeing a first—the birth of a Saturn moon. NASA's Cassini spacecraft spotted what the LA Times describes as a "fuzzy blob" near one of the planet's rings, though astronomers may not know for sure whether the maybe-moon they've nicknamed "Peggy" is an actual moon until Cassini gets a closer look late next year. The planet is old hat at this, with 53 confirmed moons and nine more suspected ones, thanks to those famous rings, notes Time. (It describes the rings, made of ice and rock, as "the nurseries in which all of the moons are born.")

Still, astronomers have never been able to see the process. “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,” says Carl Murray, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London. “We have not seen anything like this before.” Murray, incidentally, picked the name "Peggy" in honor of his mother-in-law, who turned 80 the day he first studied the Cassini images, notes Universe Today. Peggy the celestial object is relatively tiny at just a half-mile wide, dwarfed by bigger moons such as Enceladus, which was recently found to have a big underground ocean. (Read more Saturn stories.)

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