Sunday, August 23, 2009


Saturn's ring particles range in size from microscopic dust to barn-sized boulders. If you assembled them all in one place, notes Cuzzi, you would have enough material to make an icy satellite one or two hundred kilometres wide - much like Saturn's present-day moon Mimas.
The debris layer is extraordinarily thin, he marvels. "Saturn's rings are 250,000 km wide, but only a few tens of meters thick. A sheet of paper the size of San Francisco would have about the same ratio of width to depth." Indeed, if you made a 1-meter-wide scale model of Saturn, the rings would be 10,000 times thinner than a razor blade.
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Cuzzi says there are two reasons to believe the rings are young:
First, they are bright and shiny like something new. It's no joke, he assures. The wide-spanning rings sweep up space dust (bits of debris from comets and asteroids) as Saturn orbits the Sun. Rings much older than a few hundred million years would be darkened by accumulated dust. "The fact that they're bright suggests they're young," he

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