The Walnut-Shaped Moons of Saturn

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Three moons of Saturn collected in one image: Atlas, Pan, Daphnis. These moons have large equatorial bulges.
Atlas, Daphnis, and Pan three of the walnut-shaped moons of Saturn (image credit: NASA/JPL).

The Cassini spacecraft has made some truly remarkable discoveries within the Saturnian system, where it has been orbiting for the last 13 years. One such discovery is of the walnut-shaped moons: Atlas, Daphnis, and Pan. These moons sport a prominent equatorial ridge pattern circumnavigating the moons (Saturn's moon Iapetus also as an equatorial feature, though not as prominent as these). The ridges are due to where the moons are located. They are all located in or very near to the ring system, and as a result, have 'swept up' material over the millions of years they've orbited Saturn, producing equatorial ridge patterns of various sizes.

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The Walnut-Shaped Moons of Saturn
NASA Earth Observatory
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Jesse Rogerson, PhD

As a passionate science communicator, Jesse Rogerson loves promoting science literacy to the public. He frequently represents the Canada Aviation and Space Museum on television and radio, social media, and at conferences. A trained and practicing astrophysicist, Jesse holds a PhD in observational astrophysics from York University, and publishes his research in peer-reviewed journals. Jesse enjoys riding his motorcycle, board games, and ultimate frisbee.