Dec 07, 2007
Flying saucers around Saturn
The unexpected shape of the Saturn moons inside the rings (7 Decembre 2007)

The high resolution images provided by the Cassini spacecraft have uncovered a surprising shape for two small Saturn satellites located inside the rings of the giant planet. An international team, leaded by Sébastien Charnoz and André Brahic from the Service d'Astrophysique (SAp) of CEA/DSM/DAPNIA and laboratoire AIM (CNRS, Université Paris Diderot), have just shown that the Pan and Atlas satellites, two small moons with only a 30 km radius, are circled at their equator by an important padding making them looking like "flying saucers". Thanks to numerical simulations able to reproduce the collisions among particles taking place inside the Saturn rings, the astronomers have now gain new indications that the small bodies have indeed "grown" inside the rings. They constitute a new evidence that the Saturn rings originate from the cataclysmic desintegration of a bigger satellite or comet.
These results are published in Science of 7 décembre 2007.

For details and more information in French : click HERE 


Animation  Pan-Atlas (click for file MOV 15 Mo). Copyrights : F. Durillon


Video Animation
(fichier MOV 26 Mo)
Animation + Sound
(fichier MOV 29 Mo)
Audio  S. Charnoz interview (in french)
Ciel & Espace Radio

Copyrights Animation : Frédéric Durillon - & CEA/SAp
Copyrights Podcast : Ciel & Espace Radio -


Contact :   and

Publications :

" The equatorial ridges of Pan & Atlas : terminal accretionary ornaments "
  S. Charnoz, A. Brahic, P. Thomas, C. Porcot, published in Science magazine  (7 Decembre 2007)
  for an  electronic version ( file PDF- 232 Ko)

see also

-the CEA press release  (7 Decembre 2007, in French)
-the CNRS press release  (7 Decembre 2007, in French)

additonal informations

- "Spirale dans les anneaux de Saturne" (24 novembre 2005, in French)
- "Cassini rencontre les anneaux" (25 février 2005, in French)
- Personnelle page  S. Charnoz (Univ. Paris-7, in French)

Rédaction: S. Charnoz, J.M. Bonnet-Bidaud

#2315 - Last update : 12/07 2007


Retour en haut