An evolving view of Saturn’s dynamic rings

By: , and 



We review our understanding of Saturn’s rings after nearly 6 years of observations by the Cassini spacecraft. Saturn’s rings are composed mostly of water ice but also contain an undetermined reddish contaminant. The rings exhibit a range of structure across many spatial scales; some of this involves the interplay of the fluid nature and the self-gravity of innumerable orbiting centimeter- to meter-sized particles, and the effects of several peripheral and embedded moonlets, but much remains unexplained. A few aspects of ring structure change on time scales as short as days. It remains unclear whether the vigorous evolutionary processes to which the rings are subject imply a much younger age than that of the solar system. Processes on view at Saturn have parallels in circumstellar disks.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title An evolving view of Saturn’s dynamic rings
Series title Science
DOI 10.1126/science.1179118
Volume 327
Issue 5972
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 6 p.
First page 1470
Last page 1475
Other Geospatial Saturn