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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA Finds Saturn's Moons May Be Creating New Rings

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via PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Cassini scientists are on the trail of the missing moons of Saturn. A recent observation by the spacecraft leads them to believe that they will find the moons near newly discovered rings around the planet.

During an unprecedented opportunity, with the sun poised behind Saturn, Cassini scientists discovered two new rings and confirmed the presence of two others. The new rings are associated with one or more small moons and share their orbits with the moons, while scientists suspect a moon is lurking near at hird ring.

"Just like the old maxim that says where there's smoke, there's fire, at Saturn, where there's a new ring, there's bound to be a moon," said JeffCuzzi , Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Under the cover of Saturn's shadow in mid-September, the entire ring system became visible, and never-before-seen microscopic particles began to appear. A single, faint new ring at the orbits of two moonlets, Janus and Epimetheus, was discovered. A second ring was found a week later. It is narrowand overlies the orbit of the tiny moon Pallene, which Cassini discovered back in 2004. A third and fourth ring are visible in the Cassini Division, the big gap in Saturn's main ring system. Curiously, these rings were not seen in images from NASA's Voyager spacecraft.

"We are hot on the trail of these possible elusive moonlets," said JoeBurn , Cassini imaging scientist at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. "Finding the moons and learning about their interactions with the rings will help us understand how the moons formed and perhaps how the Saturn system formed."

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