At last, the mystery around Saturn’s ring may have solved. A team of Japanese scientists have created a new model for what may have formed Saturn’s rings and also the other giant planets with rings, using computer simulations. The model also explained how the rings of these planets vary from each other.
Early October, on the online version of Icarus, Ryuki Hyodo (Kobe University, Graduate School of Science) and co-authors Professor Sébastien Charnoz (Institute de Physique du Globe/Université Paris Diderot), Project Associate Professor Hidenori Genda (Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology) and Professor Keiji Ohtsuki (Kobe University, Graduate School of Science) published their research.
The rings around Saturn, that we see today, were first observed in the 17th century.
Some 4 billion years ago, as the solar system was forming, objects about one-fifth the size of Earth wandered near the surface of the giant planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus. Astronomers calls this period of time as the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment’.
The rings were formed when the huge objects got collapsed. Using a computer simulation, scientists said that these objects were destroyed by the planets’ tidal forces and their fragments were then captured into orbits around the planets during a period when these planets went through orbital migration. Then, repeated collisions between the fragments caused them to break down further, and as their orbits became gradually more circular, the current rings formed.
The researchers calculated whether these Pluto-sized objects from the Quipper belt passed close enough to the giants to be destroyed by their tidal force. According to the calculations, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all experienced multiple close encounters, ending with the destruction of these dwarf worlds.
The researchers said the rings of giant planets like Saturn are natural by-products of how planets formed in our solar system. This implies such planets discovered around other stars are likely to contain rings formed by a similar process.
The rings of these planets do vary from each other greatly. According to latest findings, the Saturn rings constitute Moreover the icy particles (more than 95%). In the case of Uranus, though nothing much has been revealed, it is expected to get packed with stony materials. Similar is the case about Neptune as well.