Visible Universe Map



Among the ringed gas giant planet Saturn's amazing collection of 62 diverse, bizarre, and beautiful moons and moonlets, sometimes one of them just seems to stand out in the crowd. Such a moon is little Methone. Looking like a shiny white egg in Space, and composed of very lightweight fluffy stuff, Methone is less dense than any other known moon or asteroid in our Solar System. In March 2013, astronomers announced at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held in the Woodlands, Texas, that this strange little 5-kilometer-size moon is one of a batch of Space eggs in orbit around Saturn! Earlier infrared data did not have sufficient resolution to separate MK 2 from Makemake's veiling glare. The astronomers' reanalysis, however, based on the more recent HST observations, indicates that much of the warmer surface spotted earlier in infrared light may simply be the dark surface of the companion MK 2. When the American astronomer James Christy discovered Pluto's largest moon Charon back in 1978, astronomers were quick to calculate the mass of the system. Pluto's mass was hundreds of times smaller than the mass originally estimated for it when it was first discovered in 1930. With Charon's discovery, astronomers suddenly acquired a new understanding that something was fundamentally different about Pluto.