UFO? Pan is Saturn's most inner moon, as seen in this illustration. It orbits within the Encke Gap in the planet's A ring(dailymail.co.uk)Saturn's UFO moons: Bizarrely-shaped Pan and Atlas baflle scientists
They look more like flying-saucers than icy moons, but Pan and Atlas are two of Saturn's strangest satellites.
Scientists have long been puzzled by how the oddly-shaped moons, which are only 20miles across, came to be.
Researchers based at the European Space Agency now think they have some answers after studying several years worth of cosmic images.
They realised that 14 of Saturn's small moons had a very low density - about half that of water ice - and shapes that suggested they had grown out of the rings themselves.
However, they would have needed a jump start as it is not gravitationally possible for small particles to fuse together within the rings.
Therefore, each moon would have started with a massive core that was a leftover from the original collisions that caused the rings.
Carolyn Porco from ESA, said: 'We think the only way these moons could have reached the sizes they are now, in the ring environment as we now know it to be, was to start off with a massive core to which the smaller, more porous ring particles could easily become bound.'
By this process, a moon will grow even if it is relatively close to Saturn. The result is a ring-region moon about two to three times the size of its dense ice core, covered with a thick shell of porous, icy ring material.
Simulations performed at Southwest Research Institute in 2010 suggest that Saturn originally had several large Titan-sized moons, which spiraled into the planet during its early history.

The Cassini spacecraft has captured images of Saturn's moon Atlas (top) and Pan, which were likely formed at the same time as the rings
Carolyn Porco from ESA, said: 'We think the only way these moons could have reached the sizes they are now, in the ring environment as we now know it to be, was to start off with a massive core to which the smaller, more porous ring particles could easily become bound.'
By this process, a moon will grow even if it is relatively close to Saturn. The result is a ring-region moon about two to three times the size of its dense ice core, covered with a thick shell of porous, icy ring material.
Simulations performed at Southwest Research Institute in 2010 suggest that Saturn originally had several large Titan-sized moons, which spiraled into the planet during its early history.

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