The National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA) recently revealed that Saturn’s moon has more planet-like qualities than previously known. The findings, through the Cassini mission, are published in the April issue of the journal Icarus.
Researchers utilized spacecraft instruments and a computer model of the moon’s chemistry, geophysics and geology, to come to the conclusion that Phoebe was plantesimal, or similar to a planetary building block.
"Unlike primitive bodies such as comets, Phoebe appears to have actively evolved for a time before it stalled out," mentioned Julie Castillo-Rogez, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a prepared statement. "Objects like Phoebe are thought to have condensed very quickly. Hence, they represent building blocks of planets. They give scientists clues about what conditions were like around the time of the birth of planets and their moons."
Saturn is circled by a group of irregular moons and Phoebe is the largest of these moons. Saturn’s moons seem to have formed from gas and dust orbiting the plane’s equatorial plane.
"By combining Cassini data with modeling techniques previously applied to other solar system bodies, we've been able to go back in time and clarify why it is so different from the rest of the Saturn system," remarked Jonathan Lunine, a co-author on the study and a Cassini team member at Cornell University, in the statement.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a project among NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The in La Cañada Flintridge manages it for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.