A study solves one of the solar system’s most fascinating riddles: why Saturn’s rings are so young.
saturn rings, formed a few years ago 400 million years, are exceptionally young, much younger than the planet itself. near Saturn 4,500 million years, According to a study published in Science Advances.
work, led by physicist Sasha Kemp from the University of Colorado at Boulder, has provided the strongest evidence yet that Saturn’s rings are extremely young. It answers a question that has puzzled scientists for more than a century.
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“In a way, we have resolved the issue that started James Clerk Maxwell »Kempf says.
Saturn and Carpet
To reach this conclusion, the team studied the dust. As Kempf recalls, almost continuous small grains of rock material They cross the solar system. it’s gathering dust in planetary bodies And also in the ice of Saturn’s rings.
“You have to think of those rings as if they were the rug in your house Kempf says. “If you have a clean carpet, you just have to wait. Dust will settle on the carpet. The same goes for rings.
Cosmic dust analysis
From 2004 to 2017, the team used a device called cosmic dust analyzer From NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, to analyze dust particles flying around Saturn.
for 13 years he just accumulated 163 grams which originated beyond the near region of the planet. But it was enough. According to their calculations, it is likely that Saturn’s rings have been collecting dust for ‘only’ a few hundred million years. That is, they are “new phenomena”, which appear and disappear (in cosmological terms) in the blink of an eye.
Origin of the rings
Now “we know approximately how old the rings are, but we still don’t know how these rings formed,” Kempf admits.
Astronomers have spent more than 400 years Fascinated by these rings.
1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei He first saw them through a telescope, but did not know what they were. In the 19th century, the Scottish scientist Maxwell concluded that the rings of Saturn they cannot be concrete, They were made of many different pieces.
found out today saturn has seven rings made up of numerous Pieces of ice Which extends to about 281,600 kilometers from the surface of the planet.
For much of the 20th century, scientists believed that the rings probably formed at the same time as Saturn, but this idea has led to some inconsistencies, such as the bright clearness of Saturn’s rings.
But Cassini made it possible to date these rings. Spacecraft first reached Saturn in 2004 and collected data until it intentionally crashed into the planet’s atmosphere In 2017.
The rings go out
Rings may be missing. In a previous study, NASA scientists had found that the ice on the planet is slowly receding and it is estimated that it may disappear in about 100 million years.