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Solar System Exploration
Pan: Overview
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Color image showing the gap in Saturn's rings created by Pan.
Pan is seen in this color view as it sweeps through the Encke Gap with its attendant ringlets.

Pan, the innermost of Saturn's known moons, is located within the Encke Gap of Saturn's A-ring. It acts as a shepherd satellite and is responsible for keeping the Encke Gap open. The gap is a 325 km (200 mile) opening in Saturn's A ring.

Pan creates stripes, called "wakes," in the ring material on either side of it. Since ring particles closer to Saturn than Pan move faster in their orbits, these particles pass the moon and receive a gravitational "kick" from Pan as they do. This kick causes waves to develop in the gap and also throughout the ring, extending hundreds of kilometers into the rings. These waves intersect downstream to create the wakes, places where ring material has bunched up in an orderly manner thanks to Pan's gravitational kick.

Pan, like Saturn's moon Atlas, has a prominent equatorial ridge that gives it a distinctive flying saucer shape.

Pan was discovered by M.R. Showalter in 1990 using images taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft nine years earlier.

How Pan Got its Name:
Moons of Saturn were originally named for Greco-Roman Titans and descendants of the Titans. But as many new moons were discovered scientists began selecting names from more mythologies, including Gallic, Inuit and Norse stories.

Pan, a satyr (a creature resembling a man with the hind legs and hooves of a goat), is a Greek god of nature and the forest.

Just the Facts
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Mass:  4.9456 x 1015 kg
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Last Updated: 12 Aug 2013