A small new object, temporarily designated S/2004 S 3, has been seen orbiting in the outer F ring. The tiny object, seen in this movie centered in a green box, orbits the planet at a distance of approximately 141,000 kilometers (86,420 miles) from the center of Saturn. Another object, S/2004 S 4, has been seen 5 hours later orbiting within the inner F ring strand. The nature of these objects, moons or clumps, and whether or not they are in fact the same object on an orbit which crosses the F ring, is not currently known.
This movie is a sequence of 18 images taken with the Cassini narrow angle camera on June 21, 2004. Images were taken every eight minutes over the course of two and one-quarter hours. Each image has been enhanced to show the presence of the newly detected object.
In the first frame, the small moon Atlas (30 kilometers, 19 miles across) can be seen near the main rings at lower left. About one-third of the way through the sequence the moon Janus (179 kilometers, 111 miles across) appears in two images at upper right.
The size of this object has been estimated to be 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) across. Because it is so small, it is not resolved and appears as a faint point of light just barely visible above the background noise.
These images, which are part of a sequence specifically designed to search for small new moons in the inner Saturnian system, have not been cleaned of artifacts but have been greatly enhanced in contrast to increase visibility. Consequently, the main rings are overexposed, and many cosmic ray hits and noise patterns are clearly apparent.
The image scale is approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) 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 Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.