NASA Transport Bus



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. Earlier theories suggested that the craggy outline of a region of the lunar surface, named Oceanus Procellarum--or the Ocean of Storms--had resulted from a large asteroid impact. If this theory had been correct, the basin it had dug out would represent the largest asteroid impact basin scarring the lunar surface. However, mission scientists, scrutinizing GRAIL data, now believe that they have discovered new evidence that the craggy outline of this rectangular region--approximately 1,600 miles across--was actually caused by the formation of ancient rift valleys. Additional modeling showed that the strange features must be atmospheric--but nevertheless close to Titan's surface--probably creating a very thin layer of tiny solid organic particles. Because they are located directly above the dune fields surrounding Titan's equator, the only possible explanation left is that these mysterious spots are really clouds of dust churned up from the dunes.