A recent study revealed that Saturn’s rings play magic tricks on astronomers.
Experts have analyzed the mass of Saturn’s rings and found that they are thinner than anticipated. Saturn is known to be the largest planet in the cosmic bands as well the most surprising due to its massive rings.
Phillip Nicholson, professor of astronomy and Matthew Hedman, professor physics at University of Idaho studied the planet and did not find any link between the rings’ opacity and the amount of material they contains. In their study, experts discovered that Saturn’s B-ring opacity manifested variations in its width even if the amount of material didn’t change at all.
A previous study conducted by the Cassini team revealed that the B-ring had less material than expected. As NASA announced, this new research is the first to analyze the density of the ring’s mass. Phillip Nicholson stated that:
„Appearances can be deceiving. A good analogy is how a foggy meadow is much more opaque than a swimming pool, even though the pool is more dense and contains a lot more water.”
Saturn’s rings are massive formations with a diameter of almost 170, 000 miles. The B-ring, though, is the most intriguing part of the planet. On one side it is bright and reflective while on the other side it is dark and opaque. It is estimated that its width is almost 15,800 miles and its thickness about 30 feet.
Researchers examined the spiral density waves in order to weigh B-ring’s center. The density of the B-ring was obtained using data from the Cassini mission’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). This instrument was able to measure a star’s brightness more than once as it passed behind Saturn’s Rings.
Astronomer’s results after consulting VIMS data proved that B-ring has an unexpectedly low mass. Experts claim that the amount of mass of the B-ring is around one-third and two-thirds the mass of Saturn’s Mimas. They also said that the reason why B-ring’s mass is so low is still unclear.
Moreover, the research team was able to determine that Saturn’s B-ring is younger than anticipated. It seems that the B-ring is several million years old which means it’s the youngest planetary formation in the Solar System.
The experts’ conclusion is that Saturn’s rings play magic tricks on astronomers, making the planet one of the most mysterious structures in space. Further studies are to be conducted in 2017 when the Cassini spacecraft will attempt to fly inside Saturn’s rings in order to determine the distribution of mass within the planet.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia