Saturn’s Rings Reveal its Core is Much Larger — and Fuzzier — than Expected

In Saturn’s incredible rings, tiny shaky astronomers have been given the opportunity to see the inside of the gas giant indirectly, and this seems to be different from its original expectation. A new study has found that it is larger and “vague” than previously thought. As reported in nature astronomy, researchers used data from the Cassini mission – which they studied for 13 years before Saturn’s death – to look for patterns in its rings.

Some of them have been created by many moons orbiting the planet (some within their own rings), but others are thought to be due to the gravitational effects of the planet’s sloshing interior. Instead of having solid rings of stone and metal, according to some theories, the core appears to be a mixture of ice, rock, and a metallic liquid. It is commonly referred to as a vague or broad core, without clearly defined boundaries.

Studies have shown that the core extends up to about 60 percent of the planet’s radius, much larger than previously thought. It is 55 times larger than Earth and contains enough ice and rock to make 17 Earths. Co-author Assistant Professor Jim Fuller from Caltech said in a statement, “We used Saturn’s ring, like a giant seismograph, to measure the cradle inside the planet.”

“This is the first time we’ve been able to seismically search for the structure of a gas giant planet, and the results have been quite amazing.” “Obscure cores are like sludge,” added lead author Dr. Christopher Mankovich, also from Caltech. “The planet’s hydrogen and helium gas slowly mixes with ice and rock as you move toward the center of the planet. It’s like some part of the Earth’s ocean where the salinity increases as deep and deep, creating a stable configuration.”

Saturn’s rings are a collection of fine dust and ice that are organized into large bands with gaps between them. They are sensitive to a lot of instability and the idea that they can be used to search the interior of the planet for the last three decades. Like an earthquake on our planet, the oscillations inside Saturn can turn the planet so slightly. These motions, in turn, create waves in Saturn’s rings. “Saturn is always trembling, but it’s subtle,” Mankovich explained. “Every one to two hours the surface of the planet moves slowly like a rippling lake. Like a seismograph, the rings pick up the gravitational barrier and the ring particles revolve around it.”