In DepthPlanetary Science

Saturn's rings are solar system newcomers

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1513-1514
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6370.1513

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Summary

Observations made this year by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in the final months of its existence, and reported at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, show that the rings of Saturn are surprisingly youthful, coming into existence only a few hundred million years ago. Until now, many scientists had believed that the rings stemmed from early in the solar system’s history, when there would have been plenty of planetesimals and collisions to form them. But two new measures from Cassini—the light mass of the rings and an abundance micrometeorite soot coming into the saturnian system—have made it clear that the rings must be young. Scientists have only begun to puzzle together how the rings could have formed in such a scenario.