"Saturn During Equinox" by NASA / Public Domain

Why Saturn’s ‘Ring Moons’ Are Different Colors and Shapes

Mar 29, 2019

By Charles Q. Choi

The bizarre shapes and diverse colors seen in some of Saturn’s moons may now be explained, with the help of data taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft before it plunged to its doom.

These moons likely coalesced from the planet’s rings and get their color from either ice volcanoes or a mysterious red material in the rings, according to a new study.

Saturn not only possesses extraordinary rings, but also more than 60 moons. A half-dozen or so of these moons appear linked with the giant planet’s main rings, either lodged within these features or gravitationally interacting with them to sculpt their shapes and influence their composition.

The ring moons often possess bizarre features; for example, Pan and Atlas are shaped like flying saucers. Saturn’s moons can also vary in color from adjacent rings, and astronomers have questioned why these differences appear.

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