Published on August 3rd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie1
The Minor Moons Of Saturn: The Smaller Saturnine Satellites
Saturn contains more moons than any other planet with over fifty been given official names. Yellow Magpie takes a look at some of these smaller moons. Over the coming weeks we shall be examining some of the larger moons in more detail.
Pandora is a moon that orbits Saturn at a distance of just under 140,000 kilometres (90,000 miles) in the A Ring of Saturn. At just 86 kilometres in diameter (53 miles), Pandora is a very small world that takes just over 15 hours to complete a circuit around Saturn. Despite, its irregular shape, the surface of Pandora is quite smooth as it is constantly sandblasted by tiny ring particles that crash into it as it orbits around the planet.
At just over 122 kilometres, Epimetheus, like Pandora, is not large enough to form a spherical shape. It orbits Saturn at a distance of 150,000 kilometres (90,000 miles) taking just under 17 hours to complete a journey around the planet.
One of the strangest sights in the Solar System is that of Hyperion, a visual sponge-like oddity. At 370 kilometres (230 miles) it is too large to be the shape it is. Instead it should be a sphere. Scientists believe that it is the remains of a much larger satellite which was destroyed by a massive impact. Hyperion orbits Saturn at a distance of 1,300,000 kilometres (810,000 miles).
Another of Saturn’s irregular-shaped satellites, Phoebe’s unusual pock-marked shape, and the fact that it orbits Saturn in the opposite direction of everything else, suggests that the body is a captured asteroid. Phoebe is 220 kilometres in diameter and orbits the planet at a distance of 15,000 kilometres (9,000 miles). Due to its close proximity to Saturn it takes quite a while for Phoebe to complete an orbit, 550 Earth days in fact.
Mimas gets perhaps the most attention for its unusual shape and the fact that it closely resembles the Death Star out of the Star Wars franchise. The depression that creates this effect is the rather large Herschel Crater which is 140 kilometres (80 miles) in diameter.
The moon itself is just over 416 kilometres (260 miles) across and takes over 22 hours to make the trip around Saturn, orbiting at a distance of 185,000 kilometres (115 miles).
All of these moons are stunningly cold places to be in with temperatures between minus 200 and minus 190 degrees Celsius (minus 310 and 328 degrees Fahrenheit).
In the coming weeks we shall take a more detailed look at Saturn’s larger satellites.
Highly Recommended Reading
Check out Yellow Magpie’s Jupiter: The Local Gas Giant Of The Solar System for more insight into the largest planet in the Solar System.
Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of the asteroids and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.
For Germany: Cosmos.
For France: Cosmos.