“How did Saturn’s rings get built?”

Neon Saturn: A false color mosaic of 25 images of Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft over a period of 13 hours. (Image Credit: NASA)

Excellent question, young Caterpickle. Although astronomers are pretty sure that Saturn’s rings are composed mostly of water ice, they are still trying to figure out where all that water ice came from. Data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft suggests that different rings may have been built in different ways.

Saturn’s gravity built at least some of the rings out of a cloud of dust and ice that coalesced around the planet when the Solar System formed some 4.6 billion years ago. Other rings may have been formed by the moons themselves. Photos from Cassini show Enceladus and other moons located in the gaps between the rings contributing salty ice and other material to them. (Not all the moons act so selflessly, by the way. Cassini has found at least one moon that is busily stealing material from Saturn’s narrow F Ring.)

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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