Cassini sent home one last batch of photos from Saturn before plunging to its death Friday and among them was an attempt to record a mysterious object embedded in the planet’s rings, otherwise known as “Peggy.”
Peggy lives along the edge of Saturn and is an anomaly from which researchers have been unable to unearth the source.
The bizarre disturbance was first noticed in 2013 by London researcher Carl Murray, who named it after his mother-in-law after making the discovery on her birthday. And its effects on dust particles and surrounding ice has been recorded ever since.
Murray believes Peggy is a moon forming within the planet’s rings, though researchers have yet to receive a direct image of Peggy’s form.
Based on the size of the disturbance, however, Peggy’s mass is estimated to be quite large. Researchers speculate its current form is likely a large cloud of debris and that it’s been quite active as it is predicted to have split into two several years ago.
“When Cassini came out of its ring plane orbit in early 2016, we went back to look where Peggy should be; and we found Peggy and we’ve been tracking it ever since,” Murray told BBC News earlier this year.
“But a few degrees behind we could also see another object, even fainter in the sense that it had an even smaller (disturbance) signature. And when we tracked back the paths of both objects, we realized that in early 2015 they would have met,” Murray added. “So, probably, Peggy ‘B’, as we call it, came from a collision of the sort that causes Peggy to change its orbit, but rather than a simple encounter that deflected the orbit slightly, this was more serious.”
Now Murray and his team are using the data obtained by the NASA spacecraft before its plunge into Saturn. “I couldn’t find Peggy in the data though I’m still looking,” he told Gizmodo. “Peggy’s probably there, I just haven’t found exactly where yet.”
“I’m used to every day going to the computers when the images come down [to] just look for fun stuff, like Peggy!” Murray explained. “It’s going to take me awhile to get used not getting to see these images every day.”