Images taken by Nasa could have caught Saturn in the process of giving birth to another moon.
Scientists at the American space agency are examining the photographs produced by the Cassini spacecraft. These include a small icy object at the edge of Saturn’s outermost main ring, which has been compared to a baby bump. This bump is 750 miles long, six miles wide, but the actual “baby” is probably no more than around half a mile in diameter. It has already been christened Peggy – after the mother- in-law of one of the scientists involved in the project, Carl Murray, an astronomer at Queen Mary College, London University. “We have not seen anything like this before,” he said.
“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. ”We are not sure what is happening, it may be leaving the rings or it may be going back in. We will have to keep track of it. According to Nasa, Saturn already has 53 confirmed moons and another nine which are described as “provisional”. Most of them are made of ice. “Witnessing the possible birth of a tiny moon is an exciting, unexpected event,” said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. However it will take another two years before more detailed information about Peggy becomes available. This is because at the moment the “baby” itself is too small for Cassini’s cameras to take a clear image. However this should change by 2016, This is when Cassini – a joint project involving Nasa, the European Space agency and the Italian space agency – gets close enough to Saturn’s outer ring to take photos of what scientists believe will prove to be the planet’s final moon. The Telegraph