Saturn’s rings are formed during the time of the dinosaurs

Saturn’s rings are much younger than previously thought, and their age does not exceed several hundred million years. This conclusion was reached by a team of American researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Age of Saturn’s Rings

The question of the age of Saturn‘s rings has long been a subject of debate among astronomers. For a long time, the prevailing point of view was that they were formed simultaneously with the planet. Everything changed after the arrival of the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn. It managed for the first time to determine the mass of the rings of the planet (it turned out to be equivalent to about 40% of the mass of its moon Mimas), and also to measure the rate of precipitation of their matter on Saturn. It turns out that the rings of the planet will have to disappear within the next hundreds of millions of years, which indicates their youth.

Portrait of Saturn. Source: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

In the course of their new study, astronomers used the amount of cosmic dust contained in Saturn’s rings to determine the age. Its source is the micrometeorites bombarding them. Knowing the bombardment rate and the percentage of dust, scientists can calculate the lifetime of the rings.

To solve this problem, scientists used Cassini data. During the 13 years of its stay at Saturn, the CDA instrument installed on board studied 163 dust grains. This turned out to be enough to estimate the amount of dust contained in the rings and, as a result, determine their approximate age. The analysis showed that it did not exceed 400 million years. With a high degree of probability, the rings of Saturn were formed at a time when dinosaurs lived on our planet. 

How long will Saturn’s rings exist

It should be noted that according to the researchers, initially the rings of Saturn were even more impressive. At the time of their formation, their mass was slightly higher than the mass of Mimas. But since then, a significant part of the matter of the rings has fallen on Saturn.

Saturn’s rings. Source: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

But how long will the rings exist? Scientists have confirmed the results of previous studies, according to which they will disappear in the relatively near future (by astronomical standards). Calculations show that the remaining lifetime of Saturn’s rings is from 15 to 400 million years. Thus, we are lucky that we live in an era when we can admire this miracle of nature.

According to

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