This one’s for Beth, our resident amateur astronomer.
Astronomers had thought Saturn’s rings were cosmically young, likely born some 100 million years ago from leftovers of a meteoric collision with a moon, based on data by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft in the 1970s.
However, new data from the orbiting international Cassini spacecraft suggest the rings existed as far back as 4.5 billion years ago, roughly the same time the sun and planets formed. The probe also found evidence that ring particles are constantly shattering and regrouping to form new rings.
“Recycling allows the rings to be as old as the solar system although continually changing,” said Larry Esposito, a Cassini scientist from the University of Colorado.