Lord of the 'Rings' - Saturn

The Saturn is the only planet in our solar system with beautiful, majestic rings encircling it. The rings give Saturn a regal air, as they snuggle close to the planet like a bejewelled waistband, stirring the imaginations of scientists, artists, and riff-raffs like us. But how much do we know about the rings of the Saturn, except for the fact that they are breathtakingly beautiful? Let's find out.

What are the rings made of? The rings are made up of the cadavers of the dead planets, comets and also chunks of ice. There are other unidentified rocky elements too. Also, particles from one of its moon, Enceladus, were found amongst the debris as well! Talk about borrowing from the moon.

Size of the rings: Although the massive diameter is around 270,000 km, with the largest ring stretching 200 times to that of the diameter of the planet! The thickness ranges from 1-10 km. Surprising, huh? This ultra thin nature probably is because the particles tend to collide, as much of the energy is lost during these massive collisions.

How old are the rings? This, again, reeks of debate. The age of the rings are shrouded in mystery, as some features are seen to be relatively new, while theoretical methods suggests otherwise. One theory is that, about 4.54 billion years ago from the leftover material from the solar nebula formed by Saturn might have been the cause of the rings. While another theory suggests that a ice moon torn apart by the planet's gravity might have done the job, and which occurred much later. Well, no one knows for sure now, but hopefully in the future we can unravel this great riddle!

The case of the disappearing rings: The rings of the Saturn tend to vanish sometimes. Well, they don't actually disappear, but due to the tilted axis of the planet, we may find it difficult to spot the rings from our planet. This phenomenon occurred in 2008-2009, and it is going to happen on 2024-2025 again!

Chilly rings: The rings are extremely chilly, fit for an ice princess only. The temperature ranges from minus 163° C to 203° C!

Increases brightness: The ring truly accentuates Saturn's beauty, as its brightness increases because of it. But then, the colour of the rings seldom resembles the rather aesthetic portrayal in popular culture. The colours range from white to light yellow, as well as a slight pinkish brown hue.

The spokes: These are strange markings which appear on the rings, and last a few hours before finally disappearing. The Voyager was the first to shed light on this astonishing fact.

Name of the rings: The rings are named in alphabetical order, but since they were named after their discovery, and some were discovered before the others, serially they sound like scrambled alphabets. While the rings maintain a close distance, and D is considered to be faint when compared with the rest, the gap between B and A is around 4,700 km! I wonder what went wrong between the two.

Discovery of the rings: Galileo discovered them back in 1610, but couldn't exactly tell that they were rings. Infact, the early astrologers thought of them to be 'arm-like handles', and/or moons. It was in 1655 that Christiaan Huygens first described the rings.

The rings of the Saturn makes it stand out from the rest of the planets. The rings continue to baffle us, and even now what is known or discovered about them still isn't enough. The remarkable contributions of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft in this whole journey cannot be denied, but all we know that there is more to the rings than what meets the eye, or the telescope.

Post Written by - Lopamudra

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