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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Saturn's 60th moon is discovered
New Saturnian moon (Nasa/JPL/Space Science Institute)
The new moon could be related to Methone and Pallene

A new moon has been discovered orbiting Saturn - bringing the planet's latest moon tally up to 60.

The body was spotted in a series of images taken by cameras onboard the Cassini spacecraft.

Initial calculations suggest the moon is about 2km-wide (1.2 miles) and its orbit sits between those of two other Saturnian moons, Methone and Pallene.

The Cassini Imaging Team, who found the object, said Saturn's moon count could rise further still.

New family

The moon appears as a dim speck in images taken by the Cassini probe's wide-angle camera on 30 May 2007.

The Saturnian system continues to amaze and intrigue us with many hidden treasures being discovered the more closely we look
Professor Carl Murray

Professor Carl Murray, a Cassini Imaging Team scientist from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), said: "After initially detecting this extremely faint object, we carried out an exhaustive search of all Cassini images to date and were able to find further detections."

It is thought, like many of Saturn's other moons, to be mostly made up of ice and rock.

The body's proximity to Methone and Pallene suggests the three satellites may constitute a family of moons.

"Naturally we are going to use Cassini's cameras to search for additional family members," added Professor Murray.

The moon, currently dubbed Frank by the scientists who discovered it, has yet to be officially named. This decision will be taken by the International Astronomical Union.

Professor Murray said: "The Saturnian system continues to amaze and intrigue us with many hidden treasures being discovered the more closely we look."

'Epic journey'

The Cassini-Huygens mission, a collaboration between the US space agency (Nasa), the European Space Agency (Esa) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), set off on its mission to explore Saturnian system in 1997.

The Cassini space probe arrived at its destination in 2004, while the Huygens probe, initially carried onboard Cassini, landed on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, in 2005.

Professor Keith Mason, chief executive of the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), said: "It is amazing to think that when Cassini embarked upon its epic journey to Saturn in 1997, we only knew about 18 of its moons.

"Since then, through observations from ground based telescopes and the Cassini spacecraft, a further 42 have been identified."

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