Hubble Images of the Scientist



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. "We are just beginning to try and figure out quantitatively how all this might smooth a surface," Dr. Thomas said in the May 17, 2013 New Scientist. The three little moons (Methone, Pallene, and Anthe) orbit at very similar distances from Saturn, and they have a dynamical relationship. Mimas disturbs the trio of little moons, and causes the orbit of Methone to vary by as much as 20 kilometers (12.4 miles). Mimas causes the orbit of Pallene to vary by a slightly smaller amount--but it has the greatest influence on the orbit of the moon Anthe.