Saturn’s rings aren’t just a beautiful adornment — scientists can use the feature to understand what’s happening deep inside the planet.
By using the famous rings like a seismograph, scientists studied processes in the planet’s interior and determined that its core must be “fuzzy.” Instead of a solid sphere like Earth’s, the core of Saturn appears to consist of a ‘soup’ of rocks, ice and metallic fluids that slosh around and affect the planet’s gravity.
The new study used data from NASA’s Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn and its moons for 13 years between 2004 and 2017. In 2013, data from the mission revealed for the first time that Saturn’s innermost ring, the D-ring, ripples and swirls in ways that cannot be entirely explained by the gravitational influences of the planet’s moons. The new study looked at these motions in Saturn’s rings in greater detail to gain insight into the processes in its interior.