Saturn’s Rings Might Be Hiding Remains Of An Ancient Moon


Saturn is probably the most attractive planet in our solar system, thanks to its beautiful rings. However, a team of researchers at MIT believe the rings might be hiding the remains of a massive moon. They also suspect it is the reason behind Saturn’s unusual tilt.

Saturn’s Rings Might Be Hiding Remains Of An Ancient Moon

In their recent paper published in the journal Science, the team suggests there could have been a huge moon called Chrysalis revolving around Saturn for several billion years, a theory that could explain why the planet spins at a 26.7-degree angle.

What’s The Reason Behind Saturn’s Tilt?

The paper argues that after orbiting Saturn for billions of years, Chrysalis got a little close to the planet some 160 million years ago annihilating itself in the process. This event was violent enough to permanently tilt the planet to its current axis.

This theory could also explain how Saturn’s ring came into existence, with the researchers suggesting large amounts of ice chunks were formed from the remains of the huge moon.

"Just like a butterfly’s chrysalis, this satellite was long dormant and suddenly became active, and the rings emerged," professor of planetary sciences at MIT and lead author of the new study, Jack Wisdom said in a statement.

Cassini Data Might Have Unraveled The Mystery

But how did the team of scientists reach this conclusion? Well, they used gravitational field data collected by Cassini when the spacecraft made an extremely close approach. The data helped them model the distribution of mass inside the planet.

As per their calculations, Chrysalis would have been as big as Saturn’s third-largest moon Iapetus before it was shredded into small pieces.

"It’s a pretty good story, but like any other result, it will have to be examined by others," Wisdom said in the statement. "But it seems that this lost satellite was just a chrysalis, waiting to have its instability."

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