Saturn’s rings are made out of an assortment of satellites, debris, gases and dust.
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Some of the planets and natural satellites in our solar system are billions of years old; they were moving around the Sun before the first bacteria even appeared on Earth. But it seems that there are a few celestial bodies that are quite young comparing to the age of our galaxy, even comparing to the appearance of life on our planet. According to SETI researchers, dinosaurs predated Saturn’s moons, making them the youngest bodies in the vicinity.
The SETI Institute researchers studied the moons and gases that surround Saturn. And they discovered that some of the portions of the rings were less than 100 million years old. This means that the dinosaurs predated Saturn’s moons.
The gas giant’s belt is made out of an assortment of gases, satellites, icy objects and debris. Most of them are affected by tidal interactions between the planet’s inner liquid and the inner satellites. The rings have been tilted and pushed farther out over the billions of years that have passed since our solar system was formed.
But the orbital tilts and shifts can also be caused by the gravitational interactions of the moons. These bodies enter into occasional orbital resonances that tilts and pulls them from their original orbits.
In order to better understand the interactions that take place between the different objects, the researchers from SETI build a computer model that mimicked the rings. Upon doing so, they discovered that Dione, Tethys and Rhea presented fewer alterations than they initially presumed.
This means that the three satellites were subjected to fewer gravitational interactions and tidal forces. And since the laws of physics do not discriminate, the only possible explanation for the pristine state of the three moons is that they are rather new additions to the rings system of the gas giant.
Using data gathered from the geothermal activity of Enceladus, the researchers managed to estimate the strength of the tidal forces of Saturn. And from the considerable and consistent geothermal activity of Enceladus, it seems that the forces are quite high.
Judging by the potency of the tidal forces and the moderate degree of alteration present on the surface of the three moons, the researchers concluded that Dione, Tethys and Rhea are only approximately one hundred million years old.
It seems that dinosaurs predated Saturn’s moons. But the team that worked on the study claims that there is a significant possibility that the gas giant had additional moons in its inner rings, but that they were destroyed by orbital resonance.
The full article can be found in in this month’s edition of the Astrophysical Journal.
Image source: Pixabay