Data from orbiting Cassini craft may help resolve debate
JPL-Caltech/NASA, Space Science Institute
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.
There’s not enough pollution in the rings for them to have been around for a long time, argues planetary scientist Paul Estrada of the SETI Institute in Mountain View,