Burns, J.A., Thomas, P.C., Helfenstein, P., Tiscareno, M.S., Hedman, M., Agarwal, M. (2012). "Of Eggs and Arcs" American Astronomical Society, DPS meeting #44 #513.07.
New scenarios for the origins of Saturn's rings/interior moons have directed scientific attention to the region just exterior to Saturn's main rings. Four satellites (Aegaeon = Ae; Anthe = An; Methone = Me; Pallene = Pa) discovered by the Cassini mission on either side of Mimas's orbit perhaps comprise a distinct class of ring-moon. They are tiny (R = 0.3-2.5 km); three (AeAnMe) are trapped in co-rotation resonances with Mimas and reside within ring-arcs; and at least two (MePa) have remarkably regular shapes. |
Images with pixel scales as fine as 27m reveal Methone to be ovoid within 10 m (from sub-pixel limb detection) and devoid of any craters (>130 m) across its 9 km2 of surface; Pallene and even tiny Aegaeon have similar appearances in lesser-quality images. Numerical simulations demonstrate that particles comprising the surrounding ring-arcs populate the same resonances as their embedded moons; escape speeds from the moons are < 0.5 m/s, smaller than the 2 m/s that dynamically characterize the resonant well. We investigate the gentle transfer of particles back and forth between the ring-arcs and any embedded bodies. In this environment, the moons' shapes are smooth equipotentials; electrostatic effects may also determine how grains settle to surfaces. Considering these shapes to represent equipotential surfaces for rotating, tidally distorted, homogeneous bodies, we infer mean satellite densities of 250+/-60 (Pa), 310+/-30 (Me), and 540+/-120 (Ae) kg m-3.
About half of Methone's leading hemisphere is covered by a sharply bounded, lemon-shaped, relatively dark region, having a form reminiscent of Mimas's thermal anomaly (Howett et al. 2011). Its (601 nm) albedo is 13% lower than the bounding brighter material. An irregularly shaped, even-darker (by 4%) blotch straddles the apex of the moon's motion. Impacts with circum-planetary meteoroids and plasma are likely responsible for these features.