Skip to navigationSkip to content
SAUCER-SHAPED

A list of all the things to which Saturn’s saucer-shaped moon has been compared

One of the closest image of Saturn's moon Pan to date.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
One of the closest image of Saturn’s moon Pan to date.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In 1990, SETI researchers first spotted Pan, one of Saturn’s 62 officially recognized moons, tucked away among the planet’s rings, but it would be another 27 years before they could see it up close.

On March 7, one of NASA’s spacecraft, Cassini sent researchers at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory of Operations (CICLOPS) in Boulder, Colorado images of the 21-mile-wide (24 km) moon from the closest point it will ever reach—20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) away. These pictures reveal that Pan is not spherical, but rather has more of a flying-saucer shape. Mark Showalter, a researcher at the SETI Institute whose team first saw Pan years ago, told National Geographic that it looks like that because the tiny moon’s gravity is so weak, it could only accumulate tiny particles from Saturn’s rings around its middle.

Here is a list of all the colorful ways the oddly-shaped moon has been described since Cassini provided these new images:

  • a flying saucer
  • a hamburger (with an ill-fitting bun)
  • half an avocado
  • a hand grenade
  • fresh naan
  • a space wart or pimple
  • a dirty diaper
  • another one of Saturn’s moons, Atlas

And a few of my own:

  • a half-baked cookie in the oven
  • a fried egg
  • a macaroon

A lot of folks found Pan to be similar to food. Perhaps we’re all just hungry.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.