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What if the sixth planet ‘Saturn’ had swapped a moon for its rings?


Saturn’s rings have the particularity of being composed of more than 99% water ice. DECRYPTION – A satellite torn apart by the forces of gravity could have given rise to the icy rings of the gas giant.

“Two servants helping the old and slow Saturn to make its way…” It is with these words that Galileo described in 1610 the luminous spots around Saturn that he was the first to distinguish thanks to his revolutionary telescope. It will be necessary to wait until 1655 for the astronomer Christian Huygens to understand that these are concentric rings.

Nearly 400 years later, space exploration has revealed a great deal of information on the structure, size and even the mass of these rings, but the mystery of their origin remains unsolved. A team of astrophysicists led by scientists from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) publishes in the journal Science a new hypothesis: the rings would be the reminiscences of an icy moon which broke up 100 million years ago.

Saturn’s rings have the particularity of being composed of more than 99% water ice. “So much so that we could use them as ice cubes”jokes Aurélien Crida, master…

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