Since they were first observed through telescopes, the rings of Saturn have puzzled astronomers, but a team of researchers now believes they have discovered the origins of these “mysterious rings.”
According to the British newspaper “Daily Mail,” a series of new computer simulations suggest that a massive collision between two icy moons millions of years ago may have led to the formation of these rings.
High-quality measurements of Saturn came from the spacecraft “Cassini,” which spent 13 years studying the planet and its systems after entering Saturn’s orbit in 2004. “Cassini” found that the rings are made of almost pure ice, with very little dust pollution accumulation since the formation of these rings, indicating that they formed relatively recently in the solar system’s history.
This piqued the interest of scientists from NASA, as well as Durham and Glasgow universities, to develop a model for what different moon collisions might look like.
These simulations were conducted with more than 100 times the precision of previous studies, giving scientists a better understanding of Saturn’s planetary system’s history.
Vincent Eke from Durham University said, “We tested the hypothesis of the recent formation of Saturn’s rings and found that the impact of icy moons is capable of sending enough material near Saturn to form the rings we see today.”
Saturn’s rings are currently located close to the planet within what is known as the “Roche Limit,” a term that refers to the minimum distance at which a moon or satellite can withstand tidal forces without disintegrating.