Research Article

Close Cassini flybys of Saturn’s ring moons Pan, Daphnis, Atlas, Pandora, and Epimetheus

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Science  28 Mar 2019:
eaat2349
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2349

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Abstract

Saturn’s main ring system is associated with a set of small moons that are either embedded within it, or interact with the rings to alter their shape and composition. Five close flybys of the moons Pan, Daphnis, Atlas, Pandora, and Epimetheus were performed between December 2016 and April 2017 during the Ring-grazing Orbits of the Cassini mission. Data on the moons’ morphology, structure, particle environment, and composition were returned, along with images in the ultraviolet and thermal infrared. The optical properties of the moons’ surfaces are determined by two competing processes: contamination by a red material formed in Saturn’s main ring system, and by accretion of bright icy particles or water vapor from volcanic plumes originating on the planet’s moon Enceladus.

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