Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Cassini data shows that Saturns rings formed when the dinosaurs roamed

Titan’s north pole as seen by the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. The orange box shows the “wet sidewalk” region what analyses suggests is evidence of changing seasons and rain on Titan’s north pole. The blue box shows the expan NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted fresh rainfall on Saturn’s moon Titan
Cary Marshall | 21 January, 2019, 15:28

Consequently, studies focused on the orbiter's findings continue to crop up on a regular basis, such as a recent study from University of Idaho in Moscow doctoral student Rajani Dhingra, who, along with her colleagues, found evidence of rainfall on the north pole of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, in an image taken on June 7th, 2016. "It was a classic, spectacular way to end the mission". Cassini may be gone, but scientists are still working through the data the spacecraft gathered over its mission. Scientists used Cassini's trajectory to calculate the rings' gravity, which allowed scientists to estimate the rings' mass.

Publication: Christopher Mankovich, et al., "Cassini Ring Seismology as a Probe of Saturn's Interior".

Now, in the Science study published today (Jan. 17), researchers have used Cassini's ring dives to estimate when Saturn acquired its famous rings.

During the Grand Finale, NASA's Cassini spacecraft passed between the inner edge of Saturn's D-ring and the cloud top.

He says the relative youthfulness of Saturn's ring system is something that scientists have come to suspect only recently.

"T$3 he rings have less than 100 million years to live".

Ms Dhingra continued: "We want our model predictions to match our observations". It turned out that Cassini's motion was being additionally altered by massive flows of material inside Saturn's thick atmosphere at the equator about 6,000 miles (9,656 kilometers) deep.

More news: Below-zero wind chills keeping central IN on ice

After decades of uncertainty, scientists have finally figured out the length of a day on Saturn.

In case you were wondering, the mass of the rings reaches around 15 quintillion kilograms (about 16.5 quadrillion tons), roughly 5,000 times less mass than our own Moon.

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 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.

As a gas giant planet, Saturn has no solid surface with landmarks that could be tracked as it rotates.

This new study also revealed the size of Saturn's core.

Now, with the precision measurements made by Cassini's final orbits, we know that there is no hidden mass. In effect, the rings act as an extremely sensitive seismograph by responding to vibrations within the planet itself. Lower mass indicates a younger age, since the rings are made of ice chunks that accumulate more and more planetary debris over time. The new age estimate is within the range of the earlier density wave estimates, allowing the researchers to make a more accurate stab at their true age. Scientists think they formed less than 100 million years ago when asteroids, comets and small moons got caught by the planet's gravitational pull and repeatedly collided, eventually being smashed into tiny bits.

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