Agriculture
Earth-Friendly Fabrics
Chicken Eggs as Drug Factories
Growing Healthier Tomato Plants
Amphibians
Tree Frogs
Frogs and Toads
Newts
Animals
Mating Slows Down Prairie Dogs
Feeding School for Meerkats
Monkeys Count
Behavior
Babies Prove Sound Learners
The Colorful World of Synesthesia
The case of the headless ant
Birds
Storks
Peafowl
Ducks
Chemistry and Materials
Heaviest named element is official
Supergoo to the rescue
Diamond Glow
Computers
Graphene's superstrength
A New Look at Saturn's rings
Music of the Future
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Mammals in the Shadow of Dinosaurs
Fingerprinting Fossils
Dino Takeout for Mammals
E Learning Jamaica
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
Drilling Deep for Fuel
Snowflakes and Avalanches
Pollution at the ends of the Earth
Environment
Giant snakes invading North America
Pollution Detective
Indoor ozone stopper
Finding the Past
Childhood's Long History
Little People Cause Big Surprise
Of Lice and Old Clothes
Fish
Trout
Mako Sharks
Hagfish
Food and Nutrition
Making good, brown fat
Symbols from the Stone Age
Eat Out, Eat Smart
GSAT English Rules
Subject and Verb Agreement
Order of Adjectives
Adjectives and Adverbs
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
GSAT Scholarship
Ministry of Education Announces 82 GSAT Scholarships for 2010
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
GSAT Mathematics
Secrets of an Ancient Computer
Math is a real brain bender
Play for Science
Human Body
Sea Kids See Clearly Underwater
Taste Messenger
Flu Patrol
Invertebrates
Octopuses
Flies
Crawfish
Mammals
Hamsters
Donkeys
Platypus
Parents
How children learn
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
Physics
Road Bumps
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Spin, Splat, and Scramble
Plants
Plants Travel Wind Highways
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Fungus Hunt
Reptiles
Crocodiles
Black Mamba
Lizards
Space and Astronomy
Tossing Out a Black Hole Life Preserver
Holes in Martian moon mystery
Supernovas Shed Light on Dark Energy
Technology and Engineering
Musclebots Take Some Steps
Slip Sliming Away
Weaving with Light
The Parts of Speech
What is a Verb?
Adjectives and Adverbs
What is a Preposition?
Transportation
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
Middle school science adventures
Reach for the Sky
Weather
Warmest Year on Record
Polar Ice Feels the Heat
Weekend Weather Really Is Different
Add your Article

A New Look at Saturn's rings

Many students know that to figure out the age of a tree, you count the number of rings that make up its trunk, one ring for each year. But what if you wanted to know the age of the rings that surround the planet Saturn?

It’s a tricky question that scientists have tried to answer for decades. In the late 1970s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, sent a pair of spacecraft called Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 into outer space. Part of their mission was to fly past Saturn while taking pictures of and collecting data about the planet, then send all this information back to Earth.

Based on the data collected on those missions, scientists first estimated that the rings surrounding Saturn were only 100 million years old. Even though that sounds very old, 100 million years is actually quite young when compared with the solar system, which is 4.6 billion years old.

Looking at the physical characteristics of the particles that make up the rings is partly what helped astronomers determine the age. They reasoned that because the rings appear shiny and reflective, the particles in them, and the rings themselves, were fairly young. The scientists thought that the particles were young because they had not been around long enough for their surfaces to become darkened and less reflective. Things like dust and craters left from collisions with small meteorites can get particles dirty.

But a team of researchers in Colorado thinks Saturn’s rings might be much older, closer to the age of the solar system itself. These researchers used a combination of computer simulations, which mimic events, and data from the Cassini spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Saturn and collecting data.

In the computer simulation, the team estimated the gravitational pull, a force that pulls objects together, between each of the particles making up the rings. Big particles in the rings may pull smaller particles to themselves, where they stick and make one larger particle. In their simulations, the researchers found that the particles making up Saturn’s rings stick together in clumps and are not uniformly distributed, as previously thought.

The formation of new, larger ring particles from older, smaller ones could erase any surface darkening from previous collisions with meteorites, the researchers reasoned. They suggest the particles may look younger than they really are because they constantly clump together, possibly burying the cratered, dusty surface of the older particles beneath the surface of the new clumped particles.

Because of these clumped particles, scientists may have also underestimated the mass of the rings. Previously, astronomers calculated the mass of the rings by measuring how much starlight their particles blocked. The thinking was that the amount of blocked starlight could tell the amount of material in the rings. The more starlight was blocked, the more mass was present in the rings, the scientists reasoned.

But the older calculation assumed the particles were fairly evenly spread out in the rings. These newer data suggest the particles in the rings are clumped together with large empty spaces between them. In that arrangement, more light passes through than if the same mass of particles was spread evenly, as previously thought. This new understanding suggests Saturn’s rings contain much more mass than scientists first estimated.

Taken together, the findings raise new questions about the estimated age of Saturn’s rings, says Mark Lewis, a computer scientist at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. But until astronomers know more about what material the ring particles are made of, and details about how they clump together, the age of Saturn’s rings will remain an astronomical puzzle.

A New Look at Saturn's rings
A new look at Saturn's rings








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™