Saturn's rings are 4.4 billion years old
- Australia 79/4, India vs Australia Live Cricket Score and Updates, 2nd Test: Match heads towards exciting finish
- Fisherman shot dead by Sri Lankan navy, protests break out in Tamil Nadu
- Extremist elements also active in India: US travel advisory for its citizens
- Donald Trump signs revised executive order banning travellers from six Muslim-majority nations
- Campaign ends for last phase of voting: Ground falls silent, now it’s up in the air
Researchers using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have found that Saturn's rings formed around 4.4 billion years ago, shortly after the planet itself took shape.
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.
The new study, using data gathered by NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft, strongly supports the latter scenario, researchers said.
Cassini's measurements suggest that "the main rings would be [extremely] old, rather than hundreds of millions of years old," said Sascha Kempf, of the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Saturn's main ring system is huge but razor-thin, measuring about 280,000 kilometres across but just 33 feet or so in the vertical direction.
The rings are composed primarily of water ice, but they contain small amounts of rocky material contributed by micrometeoroid bombardment, 'LiveScience' reported.
Kempf 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.
After measuring the low rate of dust recruitment, the team calculated that the rings have likely existed for about 4.4 billion years.
"It would be consistent with an old ring system," Kempf said.
- Absolutist ideas of truth have been responsible for religious and political violence throughout history
- Indian Ocean regionalism will need India’s impetus, but Delhi does not seem up to the task
- Paranjape’s reading of ABVP’s activism and his facts about the seminar are wrong
- Is UP 2017 merely a repeat of Bihar 2015?
- Medical community’s angst on lower stent prices reveals a serious condition
- The Supreme Court’s recent reading of the law of contempt comes as a welcome relief