NASA just released the best-ever pictures of Saturn’s moon Pan, and mamma mia! Does that thing look like a ravioli, or what? Alternatively, one might argue that it resembles a UFO straight out of an Ed Wood film:
Scientists aren’t certain about the origin of these unique bulges, but Pan’s may have something to do with its prime position in Saturn’s orbit: In addition to being the planet’s innermost known moon, it orbits within a gap in Saturn’s A-ring. Even though Pan has a measly radius of around 8.8 miles, it’s able to act as a “shepherd moon”—it keeps the 200-mile gap clear. It’s possible the dumpling-like dimple comes from all the space dust Pan kicks up en route.
Jupiter might boast Europa, a moon so oceanic that NASA has boldly announced its intentions to find life there, but Saturn is certainly giving our solar system’s largest planet a run for its money in the moon department. Its 62-moon tally includes Titan (widely considered to be the most Earth-like world ever seen), the frosty ocean-world Enceladus, one that looks exactly like the Death Star, and a space ravioli. It’s a damn shame that the Cassini orbiter is set to make its final swan dive into Saturn’s rings this coming September.