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A small new found object, temporarily designated S/2004 S 3, has been seen orbiting Saturn’s outer F ring. The tiny object, seen in this movie centered in a green box, orbits the planet at a distance of approximately 141,000 kilometers (86,420 miles) from the center of Saturn. Its nature, moon or clump, is not presently known.
This movie is a sequence of 18 images taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on June 21, 2004. Images were taken every eight minutes over the course of two and one-quarter hours. Each image has been enhanced to show the presence of the newly detected object.
In the first frame, the small moon Atlas (32 kilometers or 20 miles across) can be seen near the main rings at lower left. About one-third of the way through the sequence the moon Janus (181 kilometers or 112 miles across) appears in two images at upper right.
The size of the object has been estimated to be four to five kilometers (two to three miles) across. Because it is so small, it is not resolved and appears as a faint point of light just barely visible above the background noise.
These images, which are part of a sequence specifically designed to search for small new moons in the inner Saturnian system, have not been cleaned of artifacts but have been greatly enhanced in contrast to increase visibility. Consequently, the main rings are overexposed, and many cosmic ray hits and noise patterns are clearly apparent. The image scale is approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras, were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute