On the Origin of Saturn’s Rings

One scientist thinks that the origin of Saturn’s rings has been found.

The ringed planetA moon, at least the size of Titan, if not larger, collided with the gas giant in the early years of the solar system. As it was torn apart by tidal forces, its frozen surface spun off and formed a ring system.

That’s the theory of Robin Canup:

Dr Canup said she believed that as this huge moon was about to hit Saturn, the planet’s tidal forces could have “stripped” some of the moon’s icy mantle before the collision.

This resulted in the formation of a massive, icy ring – and the moon’s rocky core simply “fell” on to Saturn’s surface.

With time, the ring’s mass decreased, and icy moons were spawned from its outer edge, added Dr Canup.

Saturn’s rings are ancient — the latest theory suggests that they were formed very early in the solar system’s history — so this collision between doomed moon and young planet would have happened in the wilder time of the solar system’s history, which collisions, like the one that formed our own moon, were more common.

The universe is a very amazing place.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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