Saturn is strikingly known for its beautiful rings. Despite the conduction of many space voyages, the age of its rings is still unsure. That’s because age is difficult for astronomers to measure since the indirect measurement involves other properties such as mass, color, or composition and their effect on the age of the ring. Estimates are also widely varied.
To estimate the rings’ age, researchers try to consider what’s happened to change the rings from their original appearance to how they look today. As particles within the rings collide with and gravitationally influence each other, the rings should spread out until they essentially fade away. The rings should also get darker with time, as dust and meteorites fall onto them, affecting their color and brightness.
Here, a good starting point would be the measurement of the mass of the rings and the amount of light they reflect. This is heavily dependent on how researchers model the solar system processes and the ring’s evolution over time. It might take a future mission to Saturn!
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Image Credit: A. Simon (GSFC) / NASA, ESA