Death of a Moon Created Saturn's Rings

Space murder led to iconic shape: astronomer

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 13, 2010 11:44 AM CST | Updated Dec 18, 2010 1:45 PM CST

(Newser) – How did Saturn get its distinctive rings? Through the destruction of one of its moons, new research suggests. It was “a case of cosmic murder,” reports the Daily Mail: A Colorado astronomer argues that a layer of hydrogen gas drove many moons toward the planet. In the process, the ice was peeled from one giant moon; that ice began to orbit Saturn and led to rings.

Potentially bolstering her theory is the fact that the rings are 95% ice. They were once much larger, the research, published in Nature, holds—but the ice of outer rings has turned into new moons. However, this theory doesn't explain how other planets like Jupiter and Neptune got their rings. Click for more intriguing news about Saturn's rings.

This image provided by NASA, taken Oct. 6, 2004, by the Cassini Saturn Probe, shows the planet Saturn and its rings.
This image provided by NASA, taken Oct. 6, 2004, by the Cassini Saturn Probe, shows the planet Saturn and its rings.   (AP Photo/NASA)
This false-color composite image provided by NASA shows the glow of auroras streaking out from the cloud tops of Saturn's south polar region.
This false-color composite image provided by NASA shows the glow of auroras streaking out from the cloud tops of Saturn's south polar region.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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