Tuesday , January 31 2023

Saturn rings could have been formed relatively recently, say scientists: NPR



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NASA / ESA's Hubble Space Telescope observed Saturn on June 6, 2018.

NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL team, and J. DePasquale (STScI)


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NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL team, and J. DePasquale (STScI)

NASA / ESA's Hubble Space Telescope observed Saturn on June 6, 2018.

NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL team, and J. DePasquale (STScI)

Saturn is renowned for its wonderful rings, but a new study suggests that the planet spent most of the 4.5 billion years without them.

That's because the rings are probably only 10 million to 100 million years, according to a report recently published in the journal Science which is based on NASA's Cassini probe.

Cassini spent 13 years in orbit on Saturn before blowing up and losing his atmosphere. During his final orbits, the spacecraft set off between the planet and its rings. This allows scientists to measure the gravitational effect of the rings and obtain a good estimate of the mass of the ring material.

What they have discovered is that they are only about 40% of Saturn's moon mass, Mimas, which is much smaller than the moon moon.

The Cassini Plain captured this natural image of Saturn's rings on June 21, 2004.

NASA / JPL / Space Sciences Institute


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NASA / JPL / Space Sciences Institute

The Cassini Plain captured this natural image of Saturn's rings on June 21, 2004.

NASA / JPL / Space Sciences Institute

This small table suggests that the rings are relatively young. This is due to the fact that the rings seem to be made of extremely pure water ice, suggesting that the white brilliant rings were not long enough to be contaminated by the bombing of dirty and dirty comets that would be expected to happen over billions of years. Some scientists believed that darker cometary remains in the comets could be under the bright ice, undetectable to their instruments, but this new study shows that this is not the case.

"There is not a huge amount of massive material hidden in the rings we can not see," says Philip Nicholson, planetary scientist at Cornell University and one of the authors of the study. "The rings are almost pure ice."

He says the relativity of Saturn's annular system of youth is something scientists have just come to suspect. "It was easier to believe that it is forming at the same time as Saturn and its satellites," says Nicholson. "It's hard to understand how this could have been shaped recently."

The rings may be the remains of a comet or other frozen object that happened to happen to Saturn and was broken, he says. Or perhaps one of Saturn's satellites was hit by a big comet impact.

Whatever happened, it seems more likely that Saturn's splendid rings are a temporary phenomenon that people have the luck to see at all. Previous measurements from Cassini have shown that rings can disappear in a quick moment, because dusty particles of dust are drawn to Saturn by their gravity. In another 100 million years, Saturn's most distinctive feature might be gone.

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