Aristarchus Astronomy



Each of the little Space eggs resides within its own ring arc--which is a fragmentary ring of Saturn. One hypothesis states that glittering ice crystals swarming around in the ring arc might be floating down to the surface of Methone, filling in its impact craters or other rough topography. This is something that is thought to have occurred on two other small, icy moons of Saturn--Atlas and Pan. Icy stuff swarming around in Saturn's rings apparently piled up around each moonlet's equator. The astronomers then conducted an analysis called a Bouger correction in order to subtract the gravitational effect of topological features, such as valleys and mountains, from the total gravity field. What is then left is the gravity field hidden beneath the lunar surface, existing within its crust. But small moons like Methone are usually geologically inactive and bereft of an atmosphere. Therefore, they are usually unable to smooth away the scars. Dr. Peter Thomas of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, explained it this way in the May 17, 2013 New Scientist: "When we look at objects less than 200 kilometers in radius, they are all like potatoes. They have lumps, grooves, craters." This makes Methone's smooth surface a mystery. Dr. Thomas is a Cassini team member.