IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th May, 2023 Science and Technology

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  • Saturn's rings are much younger than scientists once thought, according to new research from Indiana University.
  • Researchers have pegged the planet Saturn’s rings’ age at no more than 400 million years old.


  • Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun, notable for having an intricate dazzling ring system.
  • It is the second-largest planet in the Solar System, and with 96% of the planet is made out of lightweight hydrogen.
  • Saturn is also the least dense planet in the Solar System.
  • Saturn has a magnetosphere with a strength comparable to Earth's, which can create aurora in the outer atmosphere.
  • Saturn is classified as a gas giant and has a rocky core (with a scorching temperature of 11,700 °C or 21,100 °F) surrounded by metallic hydrogen, an intermediate layer of liquid hydrogen and helium, and a gaseous outer atmosphere.
  • Inside the atmosphere are stacked cloud layers, made out of ammonia, water, and ammonium hydrosulfide ice.
  • Saturn rotates once around its axis in around 10.5 hours.
  • Saturn orbits one time around the Sun in 29.5 Earth years and is the second most massive planet in the Solar System, at 95 times the Earth's mass.
  • Saturn has 62known moons; the largest of these moons is Titan, which also has a dense hazy atmosphere.

  • Saturn’s atmosphere is filled with methane and ammonia. The ammonia crystals on Saturn swirl around the planet coloring it with a gold tint.
  • It has wind and rain, sand dunes, shorelines and changing seasons.
  • Saturn’s largest moon Titan has underground oceans giving it the potential to harbor life. It’s the only moon with a dense atmosphere. For example, it’s 50% thicker than Earth’s atmosphere containing mostly nitrogen with hydrocarbons. Titan has lakes and rivers. But it’s really cold – as cold as -180 °C.

Saturn’s Rings

  • The rings around Saturn is mostly made out of water ice particles, peppered with carbon and tholins.
  • Compared to Saturn's age of around 4.5 billion years, these rings are thought to be relatively new.
  • Saturn's rings are thought to be pieces of comets, asteroids, or shattered moons that broke up before they reached the planet, torn apart by Saturn's powerful gravity.
  • They are made of billions of small chunks of ice and rock coated with other materials such as dust.
  • They measure just tens of meters in thickness. Saturn’s rings system is divided into 7 groups.

Missions to Saturn

  • Current and Past Missions
  • Cassini - NASA/ESA Mission to Saturn
  • Huygens - NASA/ESA Mission to Saturn's satellite Titan
  • Voyager 1 - NASA Mission to Jupiter and Saturn
  • Voyager 2 - NASA Mission to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and beyond
  • Pioneer 11 - NASA Saturn flyby (1979)


Q. Match the following:

1. Saturn                                                         a. Juno.

2. Mars                                                            b. Voyager 2

3. Jupiter                                                         c. Cassini

4. Uranus                                                        d. Insight

A.    1-a, 2-d, 3-c, 4-a

B.    1-c, 2-a, 3-d, 4-b

C.    1-c, 2-d, 3-a, 4-b

D.   1-c, 2-b, 3-a, 4-d

Answer: C