The Cassini Imaging Team discovered Methone (pronounced me-thoh-nee) on June 1, 2004. This tiny moon orbits between two of Saturn's mid-sized icy moons, Mimas and Enceladus, at a radius of about 194,000 kilometers (120,456 miles) from its planet. Astronomers have suggested two differing theories to explain the presence of Methone and two other small sister moons, Pallene and Anthe. The first theory indicates that the three little moons may have fragmented off of either Mimas or Enceladus. The second theory, on the other hand, suggests that all five moons--the three small moons and the two mid-size ones--may be the sad remnants of a larger menagerie of moons that floated around in that area--which is situated close to Saturn. Methone orbits its gigantic parent planet in 24 hours.
The discovery of a moon for Makemake may have solved one perplexing puzzle concerning this distant, icy object. Earlier infrared studies of the dwarf planet showed that while Makemake's surface is almost entirely frozen and bright, some areas seem to be warmer than other areas. Astronomers had suggested that this discrepancy may be the result of our Sun warming certain dark patches on Makemake's surface. However, unless Makemake is in a special orientation, these mysterious dark patches should cause the ice dwarf's brightness to vary substantially as it rotates. But this amount of variability has not been observed.
The scientists also ruled out the possibility that the mysterious features actually exist on Titan's surface in the form of frozen methane rain or icy lava erupted from cryovolcanoes. Such surface features would show a different chemical signature and would be visible for much longer periods of time than the bright features observed in this study. The bright features were visible from time spans of only 11 hours to five weeks.