Saturn's innermost moon Pan orbits the giant planet seemingly alone in a ring gap its own gravity creates.

Photojournal: PIA18281

September 8, 2014

Saturn's innermost moon Pan orbits the giant planet seemingly alone in a ring gap its own gravity creates.

Pan (17 miles, or 28 kilometers across) maintains the Encke Gap in Saturn's A ring by gravitationally nudging the ring particles back into the rings when they stray in the gap. Scientists think similar processes might be at work as forming planets clear gaps in the circumstellar disks from which they form.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 38 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 3, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) from Pan and at a Sun-Pan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 56 degrees. Image scale is 12 miles (19 kilometers) 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 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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