Pan Minds the Gap

The little moon Pan is minding the (Enke) gap. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The little moon Pan is minding the (Enke) gap. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

If you’ve ever wondered how the Enke gap in the rings of Saturn can be, it is thanks to the tiny moon Pan who minds the gap, keeping it nice and orderly using its gravity.  Pan is so small it barely shows up in the image above.

BTW: If you are out and about just after sunset and in the twilight AND have decent skies, look to the south, on your left or East about 15 degrees you will see the planet Mars, nice and red then on the right or West about 15 degrees you will see the bright blue star Sirius. I saw the two last evening and quite enjoyed it, the colors were really good against the twilight sky.

Here’s the Cassini caption from JPL:

Saturn’s moon Pan, named for the Greek god of shepherds, rules over quite a different domain: the Encke gap in Saturn’s rings.

Pan (17 miles, or 28 kilometers across) keeps the Encke gap open through its gravitational influence on the ring particles nearby.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 48 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 25, 2013.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) from Pan and at a Sun-Pan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 87 degrees. Image scale is 9 miles (14 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

KCCO :mrgreen:

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