“When you see Saturn floating in the eyepiece of your telescope, you feel a cosmic connection – because you have discovered the mystery in space,” said Carolyn Porco, who leads the science team for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft mission. The final year provided intricate details about the workings of Saturn’s intricate rings, showing that they may not have been there during the reign of Earth’s dinosaurs and may be a fairly recent development in our solar system.
Now, a new image of Hubble on Saturn, shown below, was taken on July 4, 2020, in the summer in the northern hemisphere of the giant rings, when the “gorgeous giant world” was 839 million miles from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, “solves the finely carved concentric ring structure – made up of pieces of ice, ranging in size from tiny grains to giant stones – and perhaps solves one of our greatest mysteries.” solar system for how and when rings formed. Two of Saturn’s icy moons, Mimas on the right and Enceladus below. (NASA, ESA, A. Simon-Goddard Space Flight Center, MH Wong, University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team)
Conventional wisdom, Goddard reports, “is that they are as old as the planet, over 4 billion years old. But because the rings are as bright – like fresh snow – a competing theory is that they may have formed during the dinosaur era. Many astronomers agree that there is no satisfactory theory that explains how it is possible for rings to form in the last few hundred million years alone. “
Cassini mission – “Saturn’s rings may not have existed during the T Rex era”
“However, measurements of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on small grains that fall in Saturn’s atmosphere suggest that the rings could only last 300 million years longer, which is one of the arguments for the young age of the ring system.” says team member Michael Wong of the University of California, Berkeley.
Hubble’s image revealed a series of small atmospheric storms, transient characteristics that seem to come and go with each annual observation. The interweaving in the northern hemisphere remains clear, as seen by Hubble’s observations in 2019, with several bands slightly changing color from year to year. The atmosphere of the ringed planet is mainly hydrogen and helium with traces of ammonia, methane, water vapor and hydrocarbons, which give it a yellowish-brown color.
“It’s just not possible” – Cassini’s mission to Saturn has discovered something amazing
Hubble photographed a slight reddish fog over the northern hemisphere in this color composite. This may be due to heating from increased sunlight, which could either alter the circulation of the atmosphere or perhaps eliminate freezing from aerosols in the atmosphere. Another theory is that increased sunlight during the summer months changes the amount of photochemical blur produced.
“It’s amazing that we’ve been seeing Saturn’s seasonal changes for several years now,” said lead researcher Amy Simon. Conversely, the newly visible South Pole has a blue tinge, reflecting changes in Saturn’s winter hemisphere.
This image was taken as part of the project for the heritage of the outer planets of the atmosphere (OPAL). OPAL helps scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of the gas giant planets of the solar system. In the case of Saturn, astronomers continue to track shifting meteorological patterns and storms.
The Daily Galaxy, Sam Cabot, through the Goddard Space Flight Center
The image at the top of the page shows the casinos before its mission ended in the deadly fiery landing of the spacecraft in Saturn in 2017.