Tsunamis Spotted in Saturn's Rings

Rings may be remnants of smashed icy moon
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2010 3:42 AM CDT
Saturn's rings are shown in this image from Cassini. The NASA spacecraft will continue sending back data from Saturn until 2017.   (AP Photo/NASA )

(Newser) – Mile-high tsunamis of icy particles are endlessly rippling around Saturn's rings, scientists told the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Science meeting this week. Astronomers, using data from NASA's Cassini probe, believe the waves, which move up to 800 feet per day, are caused when gravity from the colossal moon Titan yanks particles out of formation, National Geographic reports.

The meeting was also presented with a new theory on how Saturn's rings formed in the first place, the BBC reports. Researcher Robin Canus says that the rings may have formed when a huge, Titan-sized moon with an icy mantle and rocky core collided with Saturn. Tidal forces could have stripped the moon's ice before the core hit the planet, which would explain why the rings are nearly 95% water and ice and just 5% rock.

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