Mystery of the formation of Saturn's rings

Scientists have uncovered several important factors in relation to Saturn and presented a new model for the formation of rings second largest planet in the Solar system.

2016-11-01 11:56:14 44

ringgiant planetrings saturnsaturn uranusuranus neptunekuiper belt

A team of researchers presented a new model for the origin of Saturn's rings, using the results that were obtained using computer simulation. Noteworthy is the fact that the obtained results can be applied not only to Saturn and other planets-giants with rings. In addition, this study explains the compositional differences between the rings of Saturn and Uranus. The initial stage of the experiment was organized on 6 October. The lead author of the work is Hido, Ricky (the University of Kobe, graduate school of science, Japan). The basis of its teams represent the following persons: Professor Sebastien Sarno (from the Institute of physics in Paris, France), Professor Otsuki Keiji (University of Kobe, graduate school of science, Japan), and Professor Genda, Hidenori (from Tokyo Institute of technology, Japan). The giant planets in our Solar system have very different rings. Repeated observations showed that Saturn's rings 95% consist of ice particles, while the rings of Uranus and Neptune are much darker and have more rock formations. Saturn's rings were first discovered in the 17th century, and their research expanded the use of ground-based telescopes to spacecraft (such as Voyager and Cassini). However, the exact origin of the rings at the time was still early, because the mechanism of their formation was unclear, as well as the formation of other ring systems as a whole. Recent research was mainly focused on the period of Late heavy bombardment (lunar cataclysm, the last meteor bombardment, 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago). It is believed that several thousands of objects from the Kuiper belt, the size of which was comparable with Pluto, existed at the outer limits of the Solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune. Scientists have calculated and came to the conclusion that the probability of their destruction during the period of very high, as these objects approached close enough to the planets-giants. The results showed that Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have experienced close encounters with these objects several times. Photo source: twitter.com The aforementioned authors presented a schematic representation of the process of formation of the ring. Dotted lines indicate the distance at which the gravity of the giant planets is strong enough to provoke a tidal force and a collapse. The image And the Kuiper belt objects pass close to a giant planet. Further, as a result of strong tidal forces and collapse, some fragments fall into the orbit of the planet. In the end, sooner or later, occur the repeated collision of these fragments. As a result of this action, the orbit of each destroyed object will gradually improve and becomes more rounded, due to what generated the current ring. The next step for the team of researchers has been the increased use of computer simulation to analyze the destruction of objects from the Kuiper belt by the tidal effect at the moment when they passed near the giant planets. The end results using computerized methods varied depending on the initially given conditions which include rotation passing objects as well as their minimum distance for "sunset" on the orbit of the giant planet. However, scientists have discovered that in many cases the fragments of the objects whose mass after the collapse ranged from 0.1 to 10% of the original, was somehow "captured" orbit. Here you can draw a parallel with the explanation of mass of existing rings of Saturn and Uranus. In other words, these planetary rings were formed when a large object came at a very close distance to the planets-giants and was destroyed. Photo source: vickym72.deviantart.com In addition, the researchers also modeled the evolution of the "captured" fragments, using high-performance power and computers at the National Observatory of Japan. As a result of this simulation, it was found that objects that fall into the orbit of a giant planet and having a size of several kilometers, many times experience a collision at high speed. Exactly why is their gradual disintegration into smaller particles. A similar process led to the formation of rings that we can observe today. It should also be noted a compositional difference between the rings of Saturn and Uranus. Compared to Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have higher densities. The average density of Uranus is 1.27 grams per cubic centimeter. Neptune has this figure a little higher — 1.64 g per cubic centimeter. The density of Saturn is 0.69 g per cubic centimeter. This means that in the case of Uranus and Neptune, objects can pass close to the planet, where they then experience a very strong tidal force (Saturn has a lower density and a high ratio of diameter to weight, in view of which objects may pass very close encounter with the planet). If the Kuiper belt objects have a layered structure (e.g. a rocky core and icy surface) and a pass of Uranus or Neptune, even the very core of the object will be destroyed and "capture" by the orbit of the giant planet. This explains the different composition of the rings (including the icy, rocky, etc.) The results of this study demonstrate the fact that the process of formation of planetary rings is natural. This, in turn, means that the rings of other planets, most likely, was formed in the same way.


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