Scientists think they've witnessed Saturn 'give birth' to new moon

(NEWSER) – Astronomers think they're seeing a first—the birth of a Saturn moon.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft spotted what the LA Times describes as a "fuzzy blob" near one of the planet's rings, though astronomers may not know for sure whether the maybe-moon they've nicknamed "Peggy" is an actual moon until Cassini gets a closer look late next year.

The planet is old hat at this, with 53 confirmed moons and nine more suspected ones, thanks to those famous rings, notes Time. (It describes the rings, made of ice and rock, as "the nurseries in which all of the moons are born.")

Still, astronomers have never been able to see the process.

"We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right," said Carl Murray, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London. "We have not seen anything like this before."

Murray, incidentally, picked the name "Peggy" in honor of his mother-in-law, who turned 80 the day he first studied the Cassini images, notes Universe Today.

Peggy the celestial object is relatively tiny at just a half-mile wide, dwarfed by bigger moons such as Enceladus, which was recently found to have a big underground ocean.

This story originally appeared on Newser.

Newser is a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.


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