Saturn, Cassini–Huygens, Jupiter Ripples in Saturn’s rings reveals the gas giant’s ‘fuzzy’, 'sloshing' interior
Music, seismology or the science of earthquakes reveals a lot about our planet. The waves or ripples created by a shaking planet carries a lot of information, for example. Recently, a team of scientists from the oxford university in the uk found that using vibrations on the earths surface, they could locate elephant herds and even estimate their size. Not just our own planet. Oscillations in other planets, too, can help reveal a lot about its interior, which in turn would help scientists answer questions about how planets formed in this episode. I talk about oscillations in the interior of the saturn that makes the planet jiggle around, causing ripples in saturns rings. Using information revealed by these rings, researchers were able to learn more about the core of the planet. I am mohona basu, and this is pure science. Just last month, nasa announced that data on sees mcwaves, collected by its insight, lander, which has been on the martian surface. Since 2018 allowed scientists to decode the anatomy of mars, the team was able to estimate the size of the large liquid metal core of mars, along with the thickness of its crust and nature of its mantle. For the first time, waves generated by quakes get distorted when they travel through different materials, for example, the waves move more slowly through liquid than through solid. That means scientists can read seismic waves to learn what material these waves have traveled through, but as we move further away from the sun, it becomes more and more difficult to study the planets.
To begin with, saturn is a gas giant. The closest we have come to making a so called landing on. Saturn is when the cassini spacecraft was deliberately crashed into the planet. The cassini spacecraft, a joint collaboration among nasa, the european space agency and the italian space agency, was launched in september of 1997.. It entered the saturns orbit on july 1st of 2004 and spent about 13 years, studying the planet and its rings towards the end of its journey. The cassini spacecraft made a series of risky passes through the gaps between saturn and its inner rings before the spacecraft was intentionally destroyed by making it plunge into the planet. Data from its early phases of exploration is what helped scientists from the california institute of technology or caltech to analyze, rippling rings, which in turn changed everything we knew about the planet and its core. Until now, scientists believe that, like jupiter saturn was made mostly of hydrogen and helium gases according to nasa. Saturns center is a dense core of metals like iron and nickel, surrounded by rocky materials and other compounds solidified by intense pressure and heat. It is enveloped by liquid metallic hydrogen inside a layer of liquid hydrogen similar to jupiter score, but considerably smaller. However, the rippling rings of saturn reveal a completely different story. The new findings suggest that the planets core is not a hard ball of rock. As some previous theories have proposed, but a diffuse soup of ice rock and metallic fluids, the scientists are referring to this as a fuzzy core which lightly extends across 60 percent of the planets diameter, which makes it substantially larger than previously estimated.
Unlike in the case of mars, where scientists could place a seismometer, saturns ring in this case acted like a giant seismometer to measure oscillations inside the planet. This is actually the first time that scientists have been able to seismically probe the structure of a gas giant planet. The findings offer the best evidence yet for saturns fuzzy, core and line up with recent evidence from nasas juno spacecraft, which also indicates that the gas giant jupiter may have a similarly diluted core. According to the team behind this study, the fuzzy cores are like a sludge. The hydrogen and helium gas in the planet gradually mix with more and more ice and rock as we move towards the planet center. This is similar to how saltiness in parts of the earths ocean increases as we get to the deeper levels. This makes the whole arrangement more stable because the denser layers are in the bottom. Let me also point out here that the idea that saturns oscillations could make waves in its rings and that these rings could thus be used as seismometers to study saturns interior first came about in studies in the early 1990s researchers mark, marley and caroline poco later became The leader of the cassini imaging team, the first observation of the phenomenon of these rippling rings, was made by matt hedman and petey nicholson in 2013, who analyzed data taken by cassini. The astronomers at that time found that saturns c ring contained multiple spiral patterns driven by fluctuations in saturns gravitational field, and that these patterns would distinct from other waves in the rings caused by gravitational interactions with the planets moons.
In the current study, the researchers made it possible to decipher the pattern of waves in the rings to build new models of saturns sloshing interior. Unlike quakes on rocky planets like earth and mars, saturns quakes are subtle. The planets surface moves about a meter every one to two hours like a slowly rippling lake like a seismometer, the rings pick up the gravity, disturbances and the ring particles start to wiggle around the researchers say that the observed gravitational ripples indicate that the deep interior of Saturn, while sloshing around as a whole, is composed of stable layers that formed after heavier materials sunk to the middle of the planet and stopped mixing with the lighter materials above them. In order for the planets gravitational field to be oscillating with these particular frequencies, the interior must be stable and thats only possible if the fraction of ice and rock gradually increases as you go in towards the planets center. The results also indicate that the core of saturn is 55 times as massive as the entire earth, with 17 earth masses of that being ice and rock and rest a fluid of hydrogen and helium. As i explained before, the findings change the theories about gas giant formation, which proposed that rocky cores form first and then attract large envelopes of gas. Even in the case of jupiter observations from nasas juno, spacecraft has indicated that the planet has a similarly fuzzy core. If the cores of planets are indeed fuzzy, as studies indicate, the planets might instead incorporate gas much earlier in the formation process.
This also means that we are far from decoding all the secrets of how planets were formed and need to continue to probe to be able to fully solve the many mysteries of this universe. This is mohanabasu special correspondent at the print.