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Scientists determine exact length of a day on Saturn
We now know the exact length of a day on Saturn.
Scientists can determine the length of a day on a planet by looking at the geographical landmarks. But that's not the case with Saturn, which makes it tough figure out the length of a day on the planet.
Additionally, the magnetic field of the planet hides the speed at which it moves. This happens because the magnetic field is aligned perfectly with the rotational axis of the planet, preventing astronomers from measuring it properly.
But, NASA's Cassini probe has managed to determine that a day on Saturn is 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds. The previous estimate was 10 hours 39 minutes and 23 seconds, which was based on the data sent by Voyager.
NASA also said that the rings played a key role in the study. The scientists used waves in the rings to peer into the interior of Saturn. Christopher Mankovich, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, monitored the data from Cassini and came up with results.
"Particles throughout the rings can't help but feel these oscillations in the gravity field, at specific locations in the rings these oscillations catch ring particles at just the right time in their orbits to gradually build up energy, and that energy gets carried away as an observable wave," explained Mankovich.
The data from Cassini also helped the astronauts estimate the age of Saturn's ring. The findings hint that the rings were formed between 10 million and 100 million years ago. This also means that Saturn's rings were formed during the dinosaur age on Earth.
Saturn has formed around 4.5 billion years ago. The scientists measured the mass of the rings or the amount of material the comprise of.