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Experts don’t agree on age of Saturn’s rings

Data from orbiting Cassini craft may help resolve debate

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8:53am, October 20, 2016
Saturn and its rings

YOUNG OR OLD  The age of Saturn’s rings, seen in this March 19 image from the Cassini spacecraft, is still hotly debated among researchers.

PASADENA, Calif. — Saturn’s rings have maintained a youthful look, while still possibly being almost as old as the solar system itself. The dazzling belts of ice continue to keep their age a secret, but researchers hope to get answers from a spacecraft orbiting the ringed planet.

Data from the Cassini spacecraft, in orbit since 2004, may help resolve a decades-long debate over the age of Saturn’s rings, wide belts of shiny ice chunks orbiting the planet. They may be primordial, dating back to roughly 4.6 billion years ago, or a recent addition in the last 100 million years or so. Evidence for both scenarios was presented October 16 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.

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