Saturn's rings are younger than the planet itself

Saturn's rings are younger than the planet itself

The so-called "Grand Finale" signaled that the end was nigh for the probe and, on September 15, 2017, it burned up in the gas giant's atmosphere, bringing a spectacular 13 years of science in Saturn's orbit to a poignant close.

Now, data from the mission's grand finale is giving scientists insight into the extensive system, and it's potential age. After accounting for the unexpected effect of strong winds deep in Saturn's atmosphere, scientists were able to calculate the mass of the rings and infer their age.

The idea that Saturn's rings could be used to study the seismology of the planet was first suggested in 1982, long before the necessary observations were possible.

His work determined that the rings respond to vibrations within the planet itself, acting similarly to the seismometers used to measure movement caused by earthquakes.

In December of the following year it tracked the transit of Venus to test the feasibility of observing planets outside our solar system. Researchers found the rings are losing mass at the maximum rate predicted, with the ice particles being dragged into the main body of the planet by gravity.

Arguably the most elegantly attractive planet in the solar system today, Saturn may've been a far less remarkable pale dot, without its trademark rings, not that long ago.

"The discovery of deeply rotating layers is a surprising revelation about the internal structure of the planet", said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In another 100 million years, Saturn's most distinctive feature might be gone.

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Dhingra said, "We want our model predictions to match our observations". It appeared as if the planet's atmosphere flows and moves around deep into the planet, perhaps 9,000 kilometers beneath its cloud tops.

After decades of uncertainty, scientists have finally figured out the length of a day on Saturn. That means Saturn's rings may have formed during a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Previous efforts to narrow down the Saturn day estimated it to be 10 hours, 39 minutes, and 23 seconds based on what was known about its magnetic field from radio signals captured by the Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s. In the image above, Saturn's moon Enceladus can be seen drifting before the rings and the tiny moon Pandora.

Scientists were also able to estimate the mass of Saturn's rocky core.

Now, with the precision measurements made by Cassini's final orbits, we know that there is no hidden mass.

The sixth planet from the Sun formed about 4.5 billion years ago, along with the rest of the planets in our solar system, and spent the bulk of its existence without the characteristic rings it is known for today. She thought that the paper was of intrinsic interest, and noted that more data on rings' chemical composition could confirm estimates surrounding their age. One of the main results of his analysis is the new calculation of Saturn's rotation rate, which has been surprisingly hard to measure. So the planet could've existed without its rings for an extremely long time - up to 4,490,000,000 years.

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