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New Study Argues that Saturn's Rings Are Actually Not Young

20 Sep 2019, 12:06 UTC
New Study Argues that Saturn's Rings Are Actually Not Young
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No one knows for certain when Saturn’s iconic rings formed, but a new study co-authored by a Southwest Research Institute scientist suggests that they are much older than some scientists think.The study takes a closer look at 2017 Cassini spacecraft data that inspired several research papers suggesting that the rings were formed around the time dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Those studies, published in 2018 and 2019, challenged long-held models that put the formation of the rings several billion years earlier, around the time Saturn formed with the rest of the solar system.In a new twist, SwRI scientist Luke Dones and three French researchers argue that the historic models probably had it right in the first place. The age debate centers around Cassini data from 2017, when the craft revealed a trove of data with dazzling images of Saturn’s rings, which are composed of clear, almost pure water ice.“After Cassini’s mission ended, there was a small flood of research that claimed the rings were much younger than we had considered them to be. A common argument was that the rings, if much older, would have become much more polluted as a result of meteoroids crashing into them,” Dones said.A series of ...

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