Saturn's Rings are Young

19 Jan 2019

Young is a bit open to interpretation here, as young in the eyes of astronomers can be quite a long time ago. William sent in a link to a NASA News release - the rings of Saturn may be icons but they may be relatively young. The rings, it is thought, formed much later than the planet Saturn itself, between ten and a hundred million years ago. In other words, it could be 10 million years young. On the other hand, how young is still open to question. One would have to read the full article in order to assess why they think it could have been a 100 million years ago that the rings may have formed. See also ... and ...

On the other hand Robert sent in 3 links to Science magazine on the same subject - ... ... and ... which concerns Jupiter missions as well as Saturn - and differences in their interiors. Juno skims close to Jupiter every 53 days and on each pass the planet exerts a small pull on the spacecraft, it is thought. On Saturn they were able to measure the shifts, they say, via an analysis of gravity seismic data from the Cassini spacecraft - gleaned from movements collated during the final manoevres of Cassini in 2017 when it dived 22 times between the planet and its rings, finally diving straight down into the atmosphere of Saturn (as it was low on fuel). These movements were very small. Saturn's winds, they say, top out at 1800km per hour and they seem to exist three times deeper than those measured on Jupiter (9000 km deep). The researchers conclude these differing results may be down to magnetic differences on the two planets as Jupiter is far bigger than Saturn. Robert on the other hand makes the comment, that for unknown reasons, perhaps because of the winds, the pull of its rings or its moons, causes Saturn to vibrate. The gravitational influence of those oscillations minutely warps the shape of its rings into a pattern like the spiralling arms of a galaxy. This is an interesting observation he says, the shape of a spiral galaxy. Plasma phenomena is scaleable he claims - so are the effects isolated by the scientists gravititational in origin or plasma effects. One to ponder.

PS ... a post on Saturn has also popped up at ... waves in Saturn's rings give precise measurement of planet's rotation rate. Keep an eye out for the comments.