Cassini Data Helps Scientists Determine Saturn's Rings Not as Thick as they Seem

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Saturn is defined by its rings, which should theoretically be as visible as they are because of how thick and opaque they are.

Published in the journal Icarus, the study detailed new analysis of data from the Cassini spacecraft seems to suggest Saturn's rings are actually not as thick as their opacity would suggest. According to Discovery News, scientists at NASA took a closer look at the B ring in particular.

"Appearances can be deceiving," study co-author Phil Nicholson of Cornell University, said in a press release. "A good analogy is how a foggy meadow is much more opaque than a swimming pool, even though the pool is denser and contains a lot more water."

the study could help scientists get a more accurate reading on the ages of Saturn's rings, as they are believed to be much younger than the solar system as a whole.

"At present it's far from clear how regions with the same amount of material can have such different opacities," study lead author Matthew Hedman, a Cassini participating scientist at the University of Idaho, said in the release. "It could be something associated with the size or density of individual particles, or it could have something to do with the structure of the rings."

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