Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have found that Saturn’s core has fuzzy boundaries. They came to this conclusion on the basis of a study of oscillations in the rings of the gas giant. About it reported in an article published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Researchers examined data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn for 13 years before burning up in the gas giant’s atmosphere in 2017. The vibrations of the rings of Saturn represent a kind of seismic activity, by which it is possible to determine the structure of the planet’s interior, in the same way as the internal structure of the Earth was determined by tremors.
The results disprove the popular myth that the planet’s core is a solid ball of stone. In fact, it looks more like a diffuse “soup” of ice, rocks and metallic liquids – the so-called “fuzzy” core. In addition, it occupies 60 percent of the planet’s diameter, making it significantly larger than astronomers assumed. The core is 55 times more massive than the entire Earth, of which 17 Earth masses are ice and rock, and the rest is a liquid of hydrogen and helium.
The data obtained reject the existing models of the formation of gas giants, according to which first rocky cores are formed, and then large gas envelopes are attracted. If the cores of such planets are indeed fuzzy, then the gas may be included in the formation process at an earlier stage.