Lord of the rings: Saturn's halo may be relatively recent trait
Updated: Jan 18, 2019, 02:41 PM(IST)
Saturn's rings are one of our solar system's magnificent sights, but a relatively recent addition before the robotic explorer's 2017 death plunge into the giant gas planet according to data obtained from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
A calculation by the scientists reveal the mass of the rings based on gravitational measurements of the planet collected by Cassini indicated they formed between 100 million and 10 million years ago.
The findings challenge the notion favoured by some astronomers that the rings developed soon after Saturn formed about 4.5 billion years ago along with the other planets including Earth.
Ice and silicate particles in the 'Lord of rings'
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the solar system's second-largest, after Jupiter. All of the four gas planets possess rings, though Saturn's are the biggest and most spectacular, with a diameter of about 175,000 miles (282,000 km).
The numerous thin rings are 99% ice and 1% silicate particles from interplanetary debris.
Rings created by venturing of icy comet or moon around Saturn
It is suspected the rings formed perhaps when a large icy comet or moon ventured too close to Saturn and was shattered by gravitational forces or moons collided in orbit.
Saturn has 62 known moons.
Lower mass of Saturn rings indicates a younger age
The mass of the rings turned out to be 45% lower than previous estimates based on 1980s data from NASA's Voyager spacecraft.
Lower mass indicates a younger age, the researchers said, adding that the still-bright rings would have been darkened by debris over a longer period.