Satellite smashups could have given birth to Saturn’s odd moons | Science News


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Satellite smashups could have given birth to Saturn’s odd moons

Weird moons orbiting the ringed planet might have been forged from head-on collisions

11:00am, May 21, 2018
Saturn moons and simulated moons

SPITTING IMAGE  Simulated collisions between two moonlets can lead to oddly shaped moons (bottom row) that closely resemble some of Saturn’s moons (top row; from left to right: Pan, Atlas and Prometheus).

A space ravioli. A planetary baguette. A cosmic Kaiser roll. Some of Saturn’s moons have shapes that are strangely reminiscent of culinary concoctions.

Images of the oddball moons, mostly from the now-defunct Cassini spacecraft (SN Online: 9/15/17), got planetary scientists wondering how these satellites ended up with such strange shapes. Now, researchers suggest that collisions between young moonlets could have done the job, according to a study published online May 21 in Nature Astronomy.

Adrien Leleu , a planetary scientist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and colleagues developed computer simulations that let the scientists virtually smack together similar-sized moonlets at various speeds and angles. The team found that, at low angles and relative speeds of tens of meters per second (roughly equal to

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