Saturn without rings? Jeff Cuzzi and Paul Estrada
—We provided some material on this a few weeks ago, arising from new Cassini results first presented publicly at the Fall AGU meeting (J. Hollingsworth Powerpoint slide to Code S), but the story continues to resonate with this new article just out in National Geographic:
containing a well-balanced discussion by several ring scientists and commentary by Jeff Cuzzi (SST). A combination of two new Cassini results:
– the mass of the rings and the incoming meteoroid mass flux
– strongly suggest that before the dinosaurs arose on Earth some 200MYr ago, Saturn
may not have hosted its spectacular icy ring system.
If the rings were as old as the solar system, they would have become more polluted and
darker than we see them today. Cuzzi and Paul Estrada (SETI) first modeled the idea 20 years ago, and are coauthors on a paper the Cassini Cosmic Dust Analyzer team is preparing to submit to Science.