Weird moons orbiting the ringed planet might have been forged from head-on collisions
Images: JPL-Caltech/NASA, Space Science Institute; Simulations: A. Leleu, M. Jutzi and M. Rubin/Nature Astronomy 2018
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