Friday, 29 December 2017

Saturn’s Rings Are Young, Cassini Data Suggest

Too young for an old solar system? Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.

Joel Kontinen

Belief in a 4.5-billion- year-old solar system requires explaining away unexpected details that point to a much younger date.

Previous research had already suggested a youngish age for Saturn’s rings and moons, and observations made this year by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU )confirm this.

An article in Science states that the rings

are surprisingly youthful: Until a few hundred million years ago, they did not exist. Saturn acquired its jewels relatively late in life. If any astronomers had gazed at the sky in the time of the dinosaurs, they might have seen a bare and boring Saturn.

The naturalistic scenario needs a catastrophe of sorts, for instance, a comet or asteroid that crashed into one of Saturn’s moons, breaking it into pieces that formed the rings, or a shift in the orbits of the moons.

However, if Saturn is much younger, such storytelling becomes superfluous.


Voosen, Paul. 2017. Saturn’s rings are a recent addition to the solar system, Cassini observations show. Science (12 December).