Review

An Evolving View of Saturn’s Dynamic Rings

Science  19 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5972, pp. 1470-1475
DOI: 10.1126/science.1179118

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Abstract

We review our understanding of Saturn’s rings after nearly 6 years of observations by the Cassini spacecraft. Saturn’s rings are composed mostly of water ice but also contain an undetermined reddish contaminant. The rings exhibit a range of structure across many spatial scales; some of this involves the interplay of the fluid nature and the self-gravity of innumerable orbiting centimeter- to meter-sized particles, and the effects of several peripheral and embedded moonlets, but much remains unexplained. A few aspects of ring structure change on time scales as short as days. It remains unclear whether the vigorous evolutionary processes to which the rings are subject imply a much younger age than that of the solar system. Processes on view at Saturn have parallels in circumstellar disks.

  • The first two authors led the manuscript’s preparation; all others are listed alphabetically.

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