New object found in Saturn's rings
A small object, temporarily designated S/2004 S 3, has been found orbiting in Saturn's outer F ring.
The tiny object, seen in this movie centred in a green box, orbits the planet at a distance of approximately 141 000 kilometres from the centre of Saturn. Its nature, whether a moon or a 'clump', is not presently known.
This movie is a sequence of 18 images taken by the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 21 June 2004. Images were taken every eight minutes over the course of two and a quarter hours. Each image has been enhanced to show the presence of the newly detected object.
The size of the object has been estimated to be four to five kilometres across. Because it is so small, it is not resolved and appears as a faint point of light just barely visible above the background 'noise'.
These images, which are part of a sequence specifically designed to search for small new moons in the inner Saturnian system, have not been 'cleaned' and have been greatly enhanced in contrast to increase visibility. This means that the main rings are overexposed, and many cosmic ray hits and noise patterns can be seen. The image scale is approximately 40 kilometres per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency.
Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute