Saturn’s Rings Labeled

Although reflection from the rings increases Saturn’s brightness, they are not visible from Earth with unaided vision. In 1610, the year after Galileo Galilei turned a telescope to the sky, he became the first person to observe Saturn’s rings, though he could not see them well enough to discern their true nature. In 1655, Christiaan Huygens was the first person to describe them as a disk surrounding Saturn. Although many people think of Saturn’s rings as being made up of a series of tiny ringlets (a concept that goes back to Laplace), true gaps are few. It is more correct to think of the rings as an annular disk with concentric local maxima and minima in density and brightness. On the scale of the clumps within the rings there is much empty space.



A Moon Made Of Lightweight Fluff! Methone is small and oval--and unlike other tiny objects, composed of rock and ice, that scurry around our Solar System. Methone, which was observed up close for the very first time in 2012, is not pockmarked by impacts like other worldlets of its kind. Instead, this strange little moon, is very smooth--it shows not a hill nor an impact crater anywhere on its weirdly smooth surface. This shiny, white, icy egg in Space, residing in a peaceful nest of ice crystals, is an enigma wrapped in a bewildering mystery that some astronomers may have solved. The answer to the bewitching riddle of Methone? It is composed of lightweight fluff! The tiny moon--which for now has been designated S/2015 (136472) 1, and playfully nicknamed MK 2, for short--is more than 1,300 times dimmer than Makemake itself. MK 2 was first spotted when it was about 13,000 miles from its dwarf planet parent, and its diameter is estimated to be about 100 miles across. Makemake is 870 miles wide, and the dwarf planet, which was discovered over a decade ago, is named for the creation deity of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island. Similarly, in Norse mythology, Mani is the male personification of the Moon. Mani wanders across the sky in a horse and carriage, perpetually pursued by the Great Wolf Hati who catches him at Ragnarok--which is the "Twilight of the Gods," and the end of everything, in Norse mythology--that is, until it all begins anew.