Last year, NASA spacecraft Cassini captured colorful photos of Saturn and its largest moon, Titan and later it captured new images of Saturn and its Moons which later revealed amazing details of them. Cassini even spotted a new Moon at the edge of Saturn’s ring. But neither of these revealed any info about the age of Saturn’s rings. But lately, some researchers have successfully derived the age of Saturn’s rings. Do you have any guesses, what it could be?
Saturn’s main ring system is huge but razor-thin, measuring about 280,000 kilometers across; but just 33 feet or so in the vertical direction. On the other side, the rings are composed primarily of water ice, but they contain small amounts of rocky material contributed by micrometeoroid bombardment. However, the origin of Saturn’s ring system remains hotly debated, with some researchers arguing that it’s a relatively young structure and others holding that it coalesced long ago, at roughly the same time as the gas giant’s many satellites. But using the data collected by the NASA spacecraft Cassini which had been keeping an eye on the planet and its rings since 2004 and after long calculation, researchers are now supporting the latter scenario.
Sascha Kempf from of the University of Colorado in Boulder and his colleagues used Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer instrument to measure just how frequently such tiny particles cruise through the Saturn system. They found that a surprisingly small amount of dusty material comes into contact with the rings (on average, just 0.0000000000000000001 grams — or, in scientific notation, 10-19 g — of dust per square centimeter zooms through space every second at a distance of 5 to 50 Saturn radii from the planet). However, after measuring the low rate of dust recruitment, the team calculated that the rings formed around 4.4 billion years ago, shortly after the planet itself took shape.
Researchers study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union on December 10, 2013.
Source: Fox News