The core of Saturn turned out to be more massive and friable than scientists believed

(ORDO NEWS) — “Seismic waves” of Saturn’s rings showed that its core is saturated with volatile compounds and is very large, occupying more than half of the entire giant planet.

It is believed that the core of Saturn is composed of solid compounds – mainly silicates and ice – with a total mass of up to 22 Earth masses. However, careful observations of the behavior of the rings of the giant planet have shown that its core is saturated with gases that make it exceptionally large and much heavier. This is reported in a new article submitted to the open source online preprint library.

Christopher Mankovich and Jim Fuller of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) used data on the gravitational field of Saturn, which were collected by the space probe Cassini, as well as observations of the dynamics of the planet’s rings. Under the influence of inhomogeneities of its attraction, they are slightly deformed, “seismic” waves run through them, which is especially noticeable on the C ring – the innermost of the large ones.

Analysis showed that the core of Saturn contains 17 Earth masses of ice and silicates, however, due to saturation with hydrogen and helium, its total mass reaches 55 Earth masses. This is more than half of the entire mass of the planet (95 Earth), and the core stretches for 60 percent of its radius. The closer to the center, the less hydrogen and helium, but their content decreases smoothly, and these compounds are present even in the deepest depths of the core. This structure makes us take a fresh look at the generally accepted model of the formation of Saturn.

According to current views, it all started with the formation of a silicate-ice core, which over time attracted gas envelopes and gradually thickened, replenishing with metals and other heavy compounds. But, judging by new data, since its formation, about 4.6 billion years ago, the core of Saturn was rich in volatile gases, and over time their content only grew.


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