September 23, 2008

Saturn’s Rings Older Than Previously Thought

Saturn's rings may be larger and older than originally thought, researchers said Tuesday. Research presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Germany indicates that the rings may be billions of years old.

Since the rings seem so vivid, several scientists had debated that they were younger than Saturn.

A closer look at the rings shows that they are rougher than they appear from far away.

"Because they are clumpy, the previous estimates of the mass of the rings are incorrect," said Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado. "With more mass they can be older and still appear bright."

There is an ongoing debate over the origins of Saturn's rings. The rings are certainly one of the more dramatic features of our galaxy.

"Both Cassini observations and theoretical calculations can allow the rings of Saturn to be billions of years old," Esposito said.

One concept for the creation of the rings is that the material that the rings are composed of is fragments from collisions from the moons circling the planet.

Another theory is that the rings were created at the same time as the giant gaseous planet. Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system.


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