Sunday, 3 April 2016
Saturn's Moons and Rings May Be Younger Than the Dinosaurs, New Research Suggests
Astronomers have debated the age of Saturn’s rings for four centuries, without reaching a solution.
Many details in the Saturnian system don’t fit in with the assumed 4.5 billion year age of the solar system.
Space.com reports on a new study soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal. Based on computer modelling, it puts a 100 million year old limit to Saturn’s rings and the planet’s inner moons Tethys, Dione and Rhea, prompting the site to suggest that they might be younger than the dinosaurs.
They “haven't seen the kinds of changes in their orbital tilts that are typical for moons that have lived in the system and interacted with other moons over long periods of time. In other words, these appear to be very young moons.”
If Tethys, Dione and Rhea were billions of years old, tidal effects should have caused them to move on to longer orbits.
The researchers also suggest that Enceladus was probably formed during the Cretaceous period.
They are not questioning the assumed age of Saturn or of the solar system, but having moons so near Saturn is an enigma.
And 100 million years is a tiny fraction of the solar system’s assumed age.
Signs of relative youth are seen everywhere in the solar system, and the Saturnian system is no exception. Saturn appears to be “2 billion years” too young. Enceladus has a global ocean and jets of water-ice. Mimas might also have a sub-surface ocean, and Titan has rivers and lakes filled with ethane and methane.
It would be difficult to explain how they could be as old as many people tend to assume.
On our good Earth, radiocarbon in diamonds refute the dogma of millions of years.
Howell, Elizabeth. 2016. Saturn's Moons and Rings May Be Younger Than the Dinosaurs. Space.com (25 March).