February 5, 2023

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Saturn's rings formed from the crash of the moon

Saturn’s rings formed from the crash of the moon

There are more planets with moons than there are no planets. But how many rings too? Saturn had to do without him for a long time. Until someone lost his stomach.

What if our planet, like Saturn, had rings? That would be a wonderful sight. Our familiar moon sight will fade away. At our latitude, we would have a constantly tilted view of the rings, day and night, because they would then line up neatly around the equator. Together they will form a huge bright white arc illuminating the sky. You can also see a snow-white LP in it.

It turns out that the idea of ​​a ring Earth isn’t crazy new search To the rings of Saturn that appeared in the trade magazine last week Sciences. Because the known rings may have formed after Saturn’s moon ventured close to its parent planet and was torn to shreds in the process. Some remnants of the Moon are said to have been floating around Saturn since then, in seven concentric rings. Moreover, the rings are said to be relatively recent, with an age of two hundred million years at most. That’s while Saturn, like Earth and the rest of the solar system, has a 4.6 billion year clock.

What would the earth look like with the rings.

Photo: rr

Back to Earth for a moment, because the ring formation scenario reminds us of a similar event in the history of our planet. According to the so-called Theia theory, a wandering protoplanet (Theia) would have collided with the young Earth 4.5 billion years ago, at the beginning of the solar system. During this impact, large amounts of material from Earth (and from Thea, who did not survive the impact) were thrown into space. The moon would have been created from it. But: If this material hadn’t clustered together in our natural satellite, it might have formed rings, too. Although this is not the case in Sciencesarticle, but it seems to us a correct conclusion. And while we are on the path of speculation, what is not possible, can still come. If one day the Moon becomes unbalanced and compresses the Earth, rings can still form – although that’s not a good thing for all of us to survive.

Ice not rocks

But Saturn. The age of the episodes has always been debated. One hypothesis states that the rings have always existed – read: since the planet’s birth – and that they were the birthplaces of many of the planet’s smaller moons (by the way, Saturn has no shortage of moons with 53 confirmed moons). A flaw in this hypothesis is that the rings today consist largely of large and small lumps of ice, while the formation of the Moon requires that there also be many pieces of rock in between. The other hypothesis states that the rings are much smaller, a few hundred million years at most, supported by measurements of the amounts of meteor dust they collected. This second hypothesis is now being implemented Sciences A strong push in the back. Because one of the conclusions of the article is that the rings are 200 million years old at most. But the scenario described in it is essentially decisive. In it do not arise moons from rings, as in the first hypothesis, but, on the contrary, arise from rings from moons. Or better: from one moon.

straightened slope

However, the authors of the article, American planetary researchers, focused not directly on the rings, but on the angle of inclination with which Saturn rotates on its axis relative to the orbital plane of its orbit around the Sun. That angle is about 27 degrees, a little more inclined than Earth, but that may not always be the case, according to a new model that researchers developed for Saturn, based in part on data from the Cassini mission to the planet. . When Saturn was newly formed, it would have tilted less than 10 degrees. But the combination of the slow escape of Titan, whose orbit shifts around its parent planet by ten centimeters each year, and fluctuations in the orbit of the distant planet Neptune, would have pushed Saturn indirectly further and further. Until the counter reached 36 degrees and something must have caused a drastic shift: Saturn suddenly began crawling upright again. According to the researchers, this reversal was caused by the astigmatism of the moon. This caused instability in the finely tuned system of the planet and its moons, allowing Saturn to escape the influence of Neptune.

The Lost Moon was similar in size and composition to Iapetus, one of Saturn’s largest moons made almost entirely of ice. The ice ball may have flown into space, but it has also fallen prey to the gravity of the giant gas. Some of the debris from Saturn’s moon disappeared, so another portion may have been given new life as the planet’s ring.

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