Saturn's rings – made up of rock, dust and ice – make it distinctive in our solar system. How did the rings get there? A new study suggests that they could be fragments from a collision with a moon the size of Titan.
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and is named after the Roman God Saturn. The planet, known for its rings, is identified as a gas giant. It maintains a radius nine times the size of Earth. Saturn’s interior is believed to be made up of iron, nickel, silicon and oxygen compounds. Saturn has 62 moons with 53 of them identified.
There are a lot of interesting facts about Saturn. However, a new study could be the most interesting of them all.
According to scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, the planet’s rings could be the remaining parts of a collision Saturn had with a moon the size of Titan, reports Space.
The study suggests that an impact, which is believed to have occurred 4.5 billion years ago, led to Saturn’s powerful gravity to strip off the moon’s icy layers, which then spawned the planet’s nine rings and led to the creation of its numerous satellites.
“This model implies that the rings are primordial, that they formed from the same processes that left Titan as Saturn's only large satellite,” said study author, Rob Canup. “And it's the only self-consistent explanation for the ice-rich inner satellites."
Prior to the large smash, reports the Herald Sun, it is believed that Saturn had several giant moons inside the orbit of Titan but were lost as they coiled into the planet: “The new model proposes that the rings are primordial, formed from the same events that left Titan as Saturn's sole large satellite,” said Canup.
Findings from the study can be found in the Dec. 12 edition of the online journal Nature.