Saturn now has 60 Moons!

The 60th Moon of Saturn

Yes, it is true! Images taken from cameras aboard the Cassini spacecraft have discovered one more moon orbiting Saturn. This finding now takes the total number of moons that orbit Saturn to 60. Preliminary estimates advocate that the moon is about 2 km wide and its orbit is somewhere between two other Saturnian moons, Methone and Pallene.

The new found moon has been nicknamed as Frank by the Cassini imaging team, though it has the prosaic designation of S/2007 S4. It first showed up on May 30, 2007 as a dot on a series of images from Cassini’s wide-angle camera. Scientists also found that Frank is made up of ice and rock and they feel that there could be a group of Frank-sized moonlets circling Saturn, which may have a common origin, maybe a protosatellite, which broke into pieces very long ago.

Professor Carl Murray is a Cassini Imaging Team scientist from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL). He remarks, “After initially detecting this enormously faint object, we carried out a comprehensive search of all Cassini images to date and were able to find further detections. Naturally we are going to use Cassini’s cameras to look for additional family members. The Saturnian system continues to amaze and intrigue us with many hidden treasures being discovered the more closely we look.”

However, there is a huge possibility that Cassini could get an even closer look at S/2007 S4. The probe’s present trajectory would put it inside 11,700 kilometers (7,300 miles) of the moonlet in December 2009. Discoveries like these are very important especially to planetary scientists. These findings aid researchers in answering those big questions about the formation of planets and their satellites.

Saturn now has sixty moons, but that number is small if you compare it with the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. The mammoth planet has around 63 moons that orbit around it.