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UFO? No, it’s Pan, a weird moon of Saturn

Pan
A picture taken by the high-resolution camera on the Cassini orbiter shows Pan’s weird-looking equatorial ridge. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI)

Astronomers have long known that Pan, one of the “shepherd moons” in Saturn’s rings, had a weird shape. But it took this week’s high-resolution images from the Cassini orbiter to show them just how weird.

Cassini got its closest look ever at Pan on March 7, when it came within a little more than 15,000 miles of the 20-mile-wide moon. In the close-ups released on March 9, the thing looks like a flattened flying saucer, complete with a bulging ridge around the edge.

Overnight, the views sparked rounds of hilarity and awe on Twitter. Was it a cosmic turtle shell? Walnut? Ravioli? And what’s behind that strange, strange shape?

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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