It is impossible to send a spacecraft into Saturn’s belly (at least not one that survives). So, science research is required to figure out what’s happening inside. A team of scientists has discovered new information about Saturn’s interior by studying its famous rings.
Some theories suggested Saturn’s core might be a ball of rock, but a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy this week reveals what’s likely “a diffuse soup of ice, rock, and metallic fluids” called a “fuzzy” core.
“The analysis also reveals that the core extends across 60% of the planet’s diameter, which makes it substantially larger than previously estimated,” the California Institute of Technology said in a statement on Monday.
To make their discoveries, the researchers used data from NASA’s Saturn-studying spacecraft Cassini. The ripples in the rings are caused by internal jiggling. This was the focus of the team. Caltech compared this idea to earthquakes that cause our planet to rumble.
For decades, astronomers have known how Saturn’s jiggling could affect its rings. The new study confirms this. Caltech scientist, Caltech astrophysicist: “We used Saturn’s rings as a giant seismograph for measuring oscillations within the planet.”Jim Fuller, a co-author. “This is the first time that seismically we were able to probe the structure of a giant gas planet. The results were quite surprising.”
Saturn may have a slimy belly but the team believes it has layers of solid material with heavier materials in its middle. The fuzzy cores look like a sludge. The hydrogen and helium gas in the planet gradually mix with more and more ice and rock as you move toward the planet’s center,” said lead author and planetary scientist Christopher Mankovich.