Fascinating mystery of Saturn rings solved; Moons that got SMASHED! Tech marvel Cassini reveals all | Tech News

Fascinating mystery of Saturn rings solved; Moons that got SMASHED! Tech marvel Cassini reveals all

A group of scientists used the data from NASA Cassini spacecraft to solve the mystery behind the origin of the rings of Saturn.

| Updated on: Sep 16 2022, 21:54 IST
NASA: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter makes astonishing discovery
1/6 The lunar pits found by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have mild temperatures, drastically different from the extreme conditions on the surface of the Moon. The temperatures in these caves are nearly 17 degree Celsius almost at all times. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
2/6 NASA Moon recently tweeted, "Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of pits indicate that the Moon has caves. Could they become astronaut habitats? Scientists have discovered that parts of the pits are always about 63°F (17°C), differing from extreme temperatures at the Moon's surface". (NASA)
3/6 The surface temperatures on the Moon can go from an extremely high 127 degrees Celsius and as low as -173 degrees Celsius. "The pits, and caves to which they may lead, would make thermally stable sites for lunar exploration compared to areas at the Moon's surface, which heat up to 260 F (about 127 C) during the day and cool to minus 280 F (about minus 173 C) at night,” NASA Moon tweeted further. (NASA)
4/6 First discovered in 2009, these lunar pits could potentially be used as location for a first Moon Base. Not only are the temperatures moderate, but these pits could also provide protection against cosmic rays, solar radiation and micrometeorites, according to NASA. (AP)
5/6 LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said, “Lunar pits are a fascinating feature on the lunar surface. Knowing that they create a stable thermal environment helps us paint a picture of these unique lunar features and the prospect of one day exploring them.” (NASA)
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6/6 The particular pit used to analyze the thermal properties by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was in an area of the Moon known as the Mare Tranquillitatis. It is 100-meters deep and as wide as a football field. According to scientists, the overhang of the pit is responsible for creating shadows on the Moon and maintaining a temperature of nearly 17 degrees Celsius at all times. (NASA)
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How did the rings of Saturn originate? NASA data from the Cassini spacecraft helps scientists in figuring out the secret. (NASA)

We have all grown up watching the unique images of Saturn and its fascinating rings. It is the only planet in the solar system with such elaborate and majestic-looking rings surrounding it. And at some point, we have all wondered how these rings were formed. NASA was no different. That is why in 1997, it launched the tech wonder that is the Cassini spacecraft to take a closer look at this mysterious planet and find out the origin point of Saturn's rings. The spacecraft was fitted with a plethora of instruments like Composite Infrared Spectrometer, Imaging Science Subsystem, Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph and others for remote sensing. Similarly, there were instruments added to read particle waves and microwaves emerging to build a better understanding of the rings. And a group of scientists have used this data to finally unravel the mystery behind it. The conclusion? Saturn pulverised its moon and the material has turned into the rings that we see.

The mystery behind the rings of Saturn

A study published in the Science journal titled “Loss of a satellite could explain Saturn's obliquity and young rings” theorizes that the rings are created from the pulverized material of Saturn's moons. Saturn is known for having a large number of moons — 82 in total. This study believes that the ringed planet used to have a much higher number of natural satellites. However, due to the high gravitational force of Saturn, these were dragged towards the planet and were met with high friction that broke them down to dust.

This dust was unable to leave Saturn owing to its gravitational force and ended up swirling around it, giving it a ring-like appearance. According to researchers, this happened more than 4.5 billion years ago, when Saturn was still forming. Even more surprising is that the data from the research estimates that about 99% of the Moons of Saturn have met this destructive fate to contribute to the size and density of the rings.

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Naming this hypothesis moon Chrysalis, Jack Wisdom, the lead author of the study said, “As a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, the rings of Saturn emerge from the primordial satellite Chrysalis”.

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First Published Date: 16 Sep, 21:54 IST