Rhea (moon)

Rhea (moon)

Overview
Rhea is the second-largest moon
Natural satellite
A natural satellite or moon is a celestial body that orbits a planet or smaller body, which is called its primary. The two terms are used synonymously for non-artificial satellites of planets, of dwarf planets, and of minor planets....

 of Saturn
Saturn
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter. Saturn is named after the Roman god Saturn, equated to the Greek Cronus , the Babylonian Ninurta and the Hindu Shani. Saturn's astronomical symbol represents the Roman god's sickle.Saturn,...

 and the ninth largest moon in the Solar System
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

. It was discovered in 1672 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini
Giovanni Domenico Cassini
This article is about the Italian-born astronomer. For his French-born great-grandson, see Jean-Dominique Cassini.Giovanni Domenico Cassini was an Italian/French mathematician, astronomer, engineer, and astrologer...

.

Rhea is named after the Titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 Rhea
Rhea (mythology)
Rhea was the Titaness daughter of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, in Greek mythology. She was known as "the mother of gods". In earlier traditions, she was strongly associated with Gaia and Cybele, the Great Goddess, and was later seen by the classical Greeks as the mother of the Olympian...

 of Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, "mother of the gods". It is also designated Saturn V (being the fifth major moon going outward from the planet).

Cassini named the four moons he discovered (Tethys
Tethys (moon)
Tethys or Saturn III is a mid-sized moon of Saturn about across. It was discovered by G. D. Cassini in 1684 and is named after titan Tethys of Greek mythology. Tethys is pronounced |Odysseus]] is about 400 km in diameter, while the largest graben—Ithaca Chasma is about 100 km wide and...

, Dione
Dione (moon)
Dione is a moon of Saturn discovered by Cassini in 1684. It is named after the titan Dione of Greek mythology. It is also designated Saturn IV.- Name :...

, Rhea and Iapetus
Iapetus (moon)
Iapetus ), occasionally Japetus , is the third-largest moon of Saturn, and eleventh in the Solar System. It was discovered by Giovanni Domenico Cassini in 1671...

) Sidera Lodoicea
Sidera Lodoicea
Sidera Lodoicea is the name given by the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini to the four moons of Saturn discovered by him in the years 1671, 1672, and 1684 and published in his Découverte de deux nouvelles planètes autour de Saturne in 1673 and in the Journal des sçavans in 1686...

(the stars of Louis) to honor King Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

.
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Rhea is the second-largest moon
Natural satellite
A natural satellite or moon is a celestial body that orbits a planet or smaller body, which is called its primary. The two terms are used synonymously for non-artificial satellites of planets, of dwarf planets, and of minor planets....

 of Saturn
Saturn
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter. Saturn is named after the Roman god Saturn, equated to the Greek Cronus , the Babylonian Ninurta and the Hindu Shani. Saturn's astronomical symbol represents the Roman god's sickle.Saturn,...

 and the ninth largest moon in the Solar System
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

. It was discovered in 1672 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini
Giovanni Domenico Cassini
This article is about the Italian-born astronomer. For his French-born great-grandson, see Jean-Dominique Cassini.Giovanni Domenico Cassini was an Italian/French mathematician, astronomer, engineer, and astrologer...

.

Name


Rhea is named after the Titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 Rhea
Rhea (mythology)
Rhea was the Titaness daughter of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, in Greek mythology. She was known as "the mother of gods". In earlier traditions, she was strongly associated with Gaia and Cybele, the Great Goddess, and was later seen by the classical Greeks as the mother of the Olympian...

 of Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, "mother of the gods". It is also designated Saturn V (being the fifth major moon going outward from the planet).

Cassini named the four moons he discovered (Tethys
Tethys (moon)
Tethys or Saturn III is a mid-sized moon of Saturn about across. It was discovered by G. D. Cassini in 1684 and is named after titan Tethys of Greek mythology. Tethys is pronounced |Odysseus]] is about 400 km in diameter, while the largest graben—Ithaca Chasma is about 100 km wide and...

, Dione
Dione (moon)
Dione is a moon of Saturn discovered by Cassini in 1684. It is named after the titan Dione of Greek mythology. It is also designated Saturn IV.- Name :...

, Rhea and Iapetus
Iapetus (moon)
Iapetus ), occasionally Japetus , is the third-largest moon of Saturn, and eleventh in the Solar System. It was discovered by Giovanni Domenico Cassini in 1671...

) Sidera Lodoicea
Sidera Lodoicea
Sidera Lodoicea is the name given by the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini to the four moons of Saturn discovered by him in the years 1671, 1672, and 1684 and published in his Découverte de deux nouvelles planètes autour de Saturne in 1673 and in the Journal des sçavans in 1686...

(the stars of Louis) to honor King Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

. Astronomers fell into the habit of referring to them and Titan
Titan (moon)
Titan , or Saturn VI, is the largest moon of Saturn, the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere, and the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found....

 as Saturn I through Saturn V. Once Mimas
Mimas (moon)
Mimas is a moon of Saturn which was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. It is named after Mimas, a son of Gaia in Greek mythology, and is also designated Saturn I....

 and Enceladus
Enceladus (moon)
Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn. It was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. Until the two Voyager spacecraft passed near it in the early 1980s very little was known about this small moon besides the identification of water ice on its surface...

 were discovered, in 1789, the numbering scheme was extended to Saturn VII.

The names of all seven satellites of Saturn then known come from John Herschel
John Herschel
Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Baronet KH, FRS ,was an English mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and experimental photographer/inventor, who in some years also did valuable botanical work...

 (son of William Herschel
William Herschel
Sir Frederick William Herschel, KH, FRS, German: Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel was a German-born British astronomer, technical expert, and composer. Born in Hanover, Wilhelm first followed his father into the Military Band of Hanover, but emigrated to Britain at age 19...

, discoverer of the planet Uranus
Uranus
Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. It has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System. It is named after the ancient Greek deity of the sky Uranus , the father of Cronus and grandfather of Zeus...

, and two other Cronian moons, Mimas
Mimas (moon)
Mimas is a moon of Saturn which was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. It is named after Mimas, a son of Gaia in Greek mythology, and is also designated Saturn I....

 and Enceladus
Enceladus (moon)
Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn. It was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. Until the two Voyager spacecraft passed near it in the early 1980s very little was known about this small moon besides the identification of water ice on its surface...

) in his 1847 publication Results of Astronomical Observations made at the Cape of Good Hope, wherein he suggested the names of the Titans
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

, sisters and brothers of Cronos (Saturn, in Roman mythology), be used.

Size, mass and internal structure


Rhea is an icy body with a density of about 1.236 g/cm3. This low density
Density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 indicates that it is made of ~25% rock (density ~3.25 g/cm3) and ~75% water ice (density ~0.93 g/cm3). While Rhea is the ninth-largest moon, it is only the tenth-most-massive moon.The moons more massive than Rhea are: Earth's Moon, the four Galilean moons
Galilean moons
The Galilean moons are the four moons of Jupiter discovered by Galileo Galilei in January 1610. They are the largest of the many moons of Jupiter and derive their names from the lovers of Zeus: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Ganymede, Europa and Io participate in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance...

, Titan, Triton, Titania, and Oberon. Oberon, Uranus's second-largest moon, has a radius that is ~0.4% smaller than Rhea's, but a density that is ~26% greater. See JPLSSD.


Earlier it was assumed that Rhea had a rocky core in the center. However measurements taken during a close flyby by the Cassini
Cassini-Huygens
Cassini–Huygens is a joint NASA/ESA/ASI spacecraft mission studying the planet Saturn and its many natural satellites since 2004. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of gestation, it includes a Saturn orbiter and an atmospheric probe/lander for the moon Titan, although it has also returned...

 orbiter in 2005 (see below) cast this into doubt, though this remains controversial. In a paper published in 2007 it was claimed that the axial dimensionless moment of inertia
Moment of inertia
In classical mechanics, moment of inertia, also called mass moment of inertia, rotational inertia, polar moment of inertia of mass, or the angular mass, is a measure of an object's resistance to changes to its rotation. It is the inertia of a rotating body with respect to its rotation...

 coefficient was 0.4. Such a value indicated that Rhea had an almost homogeneous interior (with some compression of ice in the center) while the existence of a rocky core would imply a moment of inertia of about 0.34. In the same year another paper claimed the momentum of inertia was about 0.37 implying that Rhea was partially differentiated. A year later yet another paper claimed that the moon may not be in hydrostatic equilibrium meaning that the moment of inertia can not be determined from the gravity data alone. In 2008 an author of the first paper tried to reconcile these three disparate results. He concluded that there is a systematic error in the Cassini radio Doppler data used in the analysis, but after restricting the analysis to a subset of data obtained closest to the moon, he arrived at his old result that Rhea was in hydrostatic equilibrium and had the moment inertia of about 0.4, again implying a homogeneous interior. Further measurements are necessary to resolve this problem.

The triaxial shape of Rhea is consistent with a homogeneous body in hydrostatic equilibrium
Hydrostatic equilibrium
Hydrostatic equilibrium or hydrostatic balance is the condition in fluid mechanics where a volume of a fluid is at rest or at constant velocity. This occurs when compression due to gravity is balanced by a pressure gradient force...

.

Models suggest that Rhea could be capable of sustaining an internal liquid water ocean through heating by radioactive decay
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

.

Surface features



Rhea's features resemble those of Dione
Dione (moon)
Dione is a moon of Saturn discovered by Cassini in 1684. It is named after the titan Dione of Greek mythology. It is also designated Saturn IV.- Name :...

, with dissimilar leading and trailing hemispheres, suggesting similar composition and histories. The temperature on Rhea is 99 K (−174 °C) in direct sunlight and between 73 K (−200 °C) and 53 K (−220 °C) in the shade.

Rhea has a rather typical heavily cratered
Impact crater
In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

 surface, with the exceptions of a few large Dione-type chasmata or fractures (wispy terrain) on the trailing hemisphere (the side facing away from the direction of motion along Rhea's orbit) and a very faint "line" of material at Rhea's equator that may have been deposited by material deorbiting from its rings. Rhea has two very large impact basins on its anti-Cronian hemisphere, which are about 400 and 500 km across. The more northerly and less degraded of the two, called Tirawa
Tirawa (crater)
Tirawa basin is a large impact crater on Saturn's moon Rhea, at . It was glimpsed by Voyager 1 during its flyby of the moon and later photographed in greater detail by the Cassini orbiter....

, is roughly comparable to the basin Odysseus on Tethys
Tethys (moon)
Tethys or Saturn III is a mid-sized moon of Saturn about across. It was discovered by G. D. Cassini in 1684 and is named after titan Tethys of Greek mythology. Tethys is pronounced |Odysseus]] is about 400 km in diameter, while the largest graben—Ithaca Chasma is about 100 km wide and...

. There is a 48 km-diameter impact crater at 112°W that is prominent because of an extended system of bright ray
Ray system
A ray system comprises radial streaks of fine ejecta thrown out during the formation of an impact crater, looking a bit like many thin spokes coming from the hub of a wheel. The rays can extend for lengths up to several times the diameter of their originating crater, and are often accompanied by...

s. This crater, called Inktomi, is nicknamed "The Splat", and may be one of the youngest craters on the inner moons of Saturn. No evidence of any endogenic activity has been discovered.
Its surface can be divided into two geologically different areas based on crater
Impact crater
In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

 density; the first area contains craters which are larger than 40 km in diameter, whereas the second area, in parts of the polar and equatorial regions, has only craters under that size. This suggests that a major resurfacing event occurred some time during its formation. The leading hemisphere is heavily cratered and uniformly bright. As on Callisto
Callisto (moon)
Callisto named after the Greek mythological figure of Callisto) is a moon of the planet Jupiter. It was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. It is the third-largest moon in the Solar System and the second largest in the Jovian system, after Ganymede. Callisto has about 99% the diameter of the...

, the craters lack the high relief features seen on the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 and Mercury
Mercury (planet)
Mercury is the innermost and smallest planet in the Solar System, orbiting the Sun once every 87.969 Earth days. The orbit of Mercury has the highest eccentricity of all the Solar System planets, and it has the smallest axial tilt. It completes three rotations about its axis for every two orbits...

. On the trailing hemisphere there is a network of bright swaths on a dark background and few visible craters. It had been thought that these bright areas might be material ejected from ice volcano
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

es early in Rhea's history when its interior was still liquid. However, observations of Dione, which has an even darker trailing hemisphere and similar but more prominent bright streaks, show that the streaks are actually ice cliffs resulting from extensive fracturing of the moon's surface.

The January 17, 2006 distant flyby by the Cassini
Cassini-Huygens
Cassini–Huygens is a joint NASA/ESA/ASI spacecraft mission studying the planet Saturn and its many natural satellites since 2004. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of gestation, it includes a Saturn orbiter and an atmospheric probe/lander for the moon Titan, although it has also returned...

 spacecraft yielded images of the wispy hemisphere at better resolution and a lower sun angle than previous observations. Images from this and subsequent flybys showed that Rhea's streaks in fact are tectonically formed ice cliffs (chasmata) similar to those of Dione.

Atmosphere


On November 27, 2010, NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 announced the discovery of a tenuous atmosphere—exosphere
Exosphere
The exosphere is the uppermost layer of Earth's atmosphere. In the exosphere, an upward travelling molecule moving fast enough to attain escape velocity can escape to space with a low chance of collisions; if it is moving below escape velocity it will be prevented from escaping from the celestial...

. It consists of oxygen and carbon dioxide in proportion of roughly 5 to 2. The surface density of the exosphere is from 105 to 106 molecules in a cubic centimeter depending on local temperature. The main source of oxygen is radiolysis
Radiolysis
Radiolysis is the dissociation of molecules by nuclear radiation. It is the cleavage of one or several chemical bonds resulting from exposure to high-energy flux...

 of water ice at the surface by ions supplied by the magnetosphere of Saturn. The source of the carbon dioxide is less clear, but it may be related to oxidation of the organics present in ice or to outgassing
Outgassing
Outgassing is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen or absorbed in some material. As an example, research has shown how the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has sometimes been linked to ocean outgassing...

 of the moon's interior.

Possible ring system



On March 6, 2008, NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 announced that Rhea may have a tenuous ring system. This would mark the first discovery of rings about a moon. The rings' existence was inferred by observed changes in the flow of electrons trapped by Saturn's magnetic field as Cassini passed by Rhea. Dust and debris could extend out to Rhea's Hill sphere
Hill sphere
An astronomical body's Hill sphere is the region in which it dominates the attraction of satellites. To be retained by a planet, a moon must have an orbit that lies within the planet's Hill sphere. That moon would, in turn, have a Hill sphere of its own...

, but were thought to be denser nearer the moon, with three narrow rings of higher density. The case for a ring was strengthened by the subsequent finding of the presence of a set of small ultraviolet-bright spots distributed along Rhea's equator (interpreted as the impact points of deorbiting ring material). However, when Cassini made targeted observations of the putative ring plane from several angles, no evidence of ring material was found, suggesting that another explanation for the earlier observations is needed.

Exploration


The first images of Rhea were obtained by Voyager 1 & 2
Voyager program
The Voyager program is a U.S program that launched two unmanned space missions, scientific probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable planetary alignment of the late 1970s...

 spacecraft in 1980–1981.

There were four close targeted fly-bys by the Cassini orbiter: at a distance of 500 km on November 26, 2005,at a distance of 5,750 km on August 30, 2007, at a distance of 100 km on March 2, 2010 and at 69 km flyby on January 11, 2011.. Rhea has been also imaged many times from long to moderate distances by the orbiter.

External links